In 1995 Michael Jordan was well into a multiyear contract with Nike that pays him some $20 million annually to endorse the company's apparel and footwear. That year he signed a 10-year agreement with Oakley, a maker of those wraparound sunglasses that are increasingly popular with athletes, to hawk the company's shades and to sit on its board of directors—a deal that could pay Jordan up to $500,000 a year plus stock options.
But after Jordan appeared in print ads decked out in snazzy shades and a black beret bearing Oakley's logo last year, Nike sued Oakley, claiming that the beret constituted "apparel" and Jordan's wearing it was a violation of his Nike contract. In September, Nike was granted a preliminary injunction restricting Oakley to using only eyewear in its Jordan ads.
According to an Oct. 22 article in the on-line business magazine TheStreet.com, that's only the beginning of what could be a long and bitter battle over the deployment and use of Jordan, an advertising überweapon. As Jordan is starting his own eponymous apparel and footwear company with Nike's financial backing, Oakley is producing a line of athletic shoes that will hit the market next year.
Oakley plans to have a separate board—on which Jordan won't sit—for its footwear division. For that reason, Jordan's representatives say the dual agreements do not represent a conflict of interest. But Oakley spokeswoman Renee Law says the original board will have an input on footwear issues. Add to this the fact that Nike now includes sunglasses in its merchandise line, and it's clear that somewhere along the way, Jordan might be sleeping with the enemy.
What About Dean?
The New York Times may be on top of things journalistically, but when it comes to its celebrated crossword puzzle, it seems The Times is a little behind the times. The Oct. 22 puzzle included the following clue for 59-Across, a four-letter word: "Winningest NCAA basketball coach." The answer erroneously being sought, The Times admitted in its corrections column the following day, was "Rupp."