Nike Drops Lawsuit Against Olympic Hopeful Boris Berian

Nike had sued Boris Berian, shown in March at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, alleging he had violated his endorsement deal when he agreed to a sponsorship with New Balance Athletics. ENLARGE
Nike had sued Boris Berian, shown in March at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, alleging he had violated his endorsement deal when he agreed to a sponsorship with New Balance Athletics. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Nike Inc. said Thursday it was dropping its breach of contract lawsuit against Olympic running prospect Boris Berian, a case that had sparked tensions within the running world.

The sportswear maker said it wanted to “eliminate [the] distraction” of the lawsuit on the eve of the Olympic Trials, where Mr. Berian is a favorite to earn a berth to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. A Nike spokesman confirmed that Mr. Berian is no longer a Nike athlete.

Merhawi Keflezighi, an agent for Mr. Berian, said he and his client were “cautiously optimistic” the dispute is over.

Last month, the sportswear giant sued Mr. Berian, the world indoor 800-meter champion, alleging the 23-year-old violated his Nike endorsement deal when he agreed to a sponsorship with New Balance Athletics Inc. and declined what Nike described as a matching offer.

Nike had brought the lawsuit just weeks ahead of the trials to determine the U.S. squad for the Summer Games. A judge was expected to rule next week on Nike’s request to bar Mr. Berian from competing in any non-Nike gear at the trials, which begin July 1.

“Nike legitimately exercised its right to match the New Balance offer and believe we would prove this at trial,” the company said. “As a running company, we also recognize that this is a significant time for Boris and in light of the judge’s decision to delay the ruling until June 28th, the eve of the Olympic Trials, we decided to eliminate this distraction for Boris.”


WSJ.com: US Business

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