NEW YORK — Nike went to court Wednesday to prove that Reebok is no shoo-in to promote New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow on apparel.
Nike Inc. claimed in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court that Reebok International Ltd. has used Tebow's name on Jets-related apparel without permission since it was announced last week that Tebow was traded from the Denver Broncos to New York. The Tebow trade occurred just before Nike replaces Reebok on Sunday as the supplier of NFL team uniforms.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, claims that Reebok misappropriated publicity rights, interfered with business relationships and unjustly enriched itself because it failed to get Tebow's permission before launching the new products.
Reebok, based in Canton, Mass., did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. The lawsuit said Reebok did not respond to demands to cease Tebow apparel sales after a Tebow representative sent a letter to the company on Friday.
Reebok is a subsidiary of Adidas AG.
According to the lawsuit, new Nike-supplied uniforms for all 32 NFL teams will be unveiled next week in New York City, kicking off a five-year deal for Nike to be the league's exclusive provider of on-field apparel, including game uniforms and sideline apparel. Reebok had been the supplier for the last decade.
The lawsuit said demands for Tebow-related Jets apparel was intense last week during a normally subdued time for NFL merchandise sales.
It said Nike, based in Beaverton, Ore., believes Reebok was shipping large volumes of Tebow-related apparel products to retailers for sale to the public this week, damaging Nike's ability to capitalize on a "unique and short-lived opportunity."
The lawsuit added that it was unlikely that a consumer who buys an unauthorized Tebow jersey or T-shirt from Reebok this week will purchase an authorized Tebow item from Nike next week.