The Greed Of Adidas: Sticking It To UCF And Air Jordan's Son

Dean HyblAnalyst INovember 7, 2009

Given that his father is synonymous with the company, it is likely that Marcus Jordan had a Nike swoosh on his pacifier as a baby. Certainly, he grew up wearing shoes and clothes designed by the famous sports apparel company.

Now a freshman basketball player at the University of Central Florida (UCF), the young Jordan has become a central figure in a “shoe war” even before playing his first college game.

It seems UCF has a long-term relationship with adidas, and recently agreed on a new six-year, $3-million deal that called for all UCF athletic teams to wear adidas apparel and equipment.

Evidently, at the time Jordan was being recruited to UCF, he asked if he would be able to wear a Nike shoe endorsed by his father instead of the adidas shoes provided to the school. According to all accounts from UCF, the regional adidas representative gave approval for Marcus to wear Nike shoes during games. I’m willing to bet it was an important component of why he ultimately chose UCF.

However, within the last week came word that the national adidas management had overturned that exception and UCF was subject to having their contract revoked if Jordan didn’t wear adidas shoes.

We also have learned that adidas has previously made several exceptions for athletes (mostly kickers) who prefer Nike shoes, both at UCF and at other schools.

However, none of those athletes happened to be the son of the most recognized spokesperson for their biggest competitor.

In addition—and this may be a very key point in why this rival company is holding firm—none of those other athletes had a father who draped an American flag over his shoulder at the 1992 Olympic medal ceremony to ensure that he wasn’t photographed with a Reebok label on his chest.

Though this situation involves adidas rather than Reebok, I’m willing to bet all competitors in the apparel industry have had encounters with the senior Jordan over the years and would relish the opportunity to stick one to a ruthless businessman who always seems willing to throw sticks in the direction of others.

18-year old Marcus Jordan was suddenly put into an unfair position of having to choose between wearing the shoes he had worn his entire life and a pair provided under his school's apparel contract.

It would seem to many Marcus could have just sucked it up and laced up the adidas sneakers. However, having gone through the proper channels and received initial permission, Jordan rightfully decided to hold UCF to their verbal agreement he could wear his dad’s brand of shoe.

To their credit, UCF officials have sided with their freshman athlete, saying the choice is completely up to him regardless of the consequences for the school’s contract with Adidas.

Living here in Orlando and watching the entire saga unfold, I have been amazed by this power play by adidas.

Especially after I actually saw the shoes (see the photo at the top).

They are very nice white high top shoes with no visible Nike logo. If you didn’t know that they were Nike shoes, I don’t think most people would pay it any mind.

To make adidas seem even pettier in my mind, for the team’s first exhibition game Wednesday night, Marcus even had clearly marked adidas anklets directly above the shoes so that anyone who saw them would see the adidas logo.

It almost seemed to me like Marcus was going out of his way to say, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do to highlight Adidas, just please let me wear my dad’s shoes.”

Instead, seemingly before the game was even over, a statement was sent to the media (rather than to the school) announcing the agreement with UCF would be terminated.

Of course, the speculation here is that “Daddy” and Nike should sweep in and rescue UCF. So far that hasn’t happened, but I expect it will. Doing so would both make them the heroes and further emphasize the pettiness of adidas.

Though I don’t know all the facts, I have a hard time not siding with UCF on this entire situation.

I understand they had an agreement with adidas for their athletes to wear their apparel, but exceptions have been made previously, and in this case the exception was requested and approval given months ago.

Adidas may have been trying to send a message to their clients across the country of the importance of sticking to their agreements, but I can’t help but think that the real message they have sent is not one they will like.

It seems to me that in trying to stick one to Michael Jordan and play tough with UCF they have signaled to potential clients that adidas can’t be flexible when situations would seem to warrant flexibility.

I expect Nike, Reebok and the others will be reminding potential clients of adidas’ tough stance the next time they are battling for a contract.

As for young Marcus, I hope that this “shoe war” proves to be just a minor early skirmish and not the defining moment of his college career.

It certainly has to be tough to be the son of a legend trying to follow in his footsteps. I’m sure this is not the start Marcus would have wanted, but hopefully he will show some of the toughness that was a trademark of his father’s career.

I doubt he will ever be “Air Jordan,” but even if Marcus is only half as good as his dad, he will still be better than most.

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