A New York-based fashion designer, Nike, and its partner world-renowned basketball player Michael Jordan are facing a lawsuit against them in Manhattan federal court for alleged stolen logo design, which they used in their new line of NBA All-Star Weekend apparel earlier in 2020.
The lawsuit is made by a designer, Rocco Giordano, who is accusing Nike and its co-defendants of trademark and copyright infringement demanding $30 million in reparations.
In the lawsuit, it is written that the six-pointed star design which was used by Nike’s Jordan Brand and designer Cody Hudson, who is also a defendant, for the Jordan Brand’s “Orange Line” is so similar to his design that he has received numerous congratulatory messages from friends in the fashion industry.
It is worth noting that Giordano did not and has not transferred copyright interest for his six-points logo to Nike at any point. He was very flabbergasted to learn that his own work and art was used so blatantly by one of the most successful and largest designer companies in the world. According to Giordano, the six-point star logo was created in the year 2000 while the trademark for the design was in 2012. The lawsuit argues that the designer was extremely popular due to the fact that his works have been showcased in numerous Giordano’s brand stores in New York City.
It is interesting to point out that Michael Jordan has profited from Nike a lot in his lifetime partnership. Even though it has been more than 16 years since he played his last professional basketball game, he is still out-earning every other NBA player when it comes to income from the fashion brands and sneakers in particular. By Forbes’ report in 2019 alone, Jordan has earned $130 million from his Nike deal. To put it in perspective, it is 4 times more than Number 2 ranked LeBron James, who netted $32 million and Number 3 Kevin Durant who made $26 million in their sneaker deals.
The partnership between Jordan and Nike is shrouded in controversy due to the fact that Jordan had a huge gambling problem. Many say he had to go forward with the partnership because he needed the money to pay off debts and keep his addiction going. There were rumors that he was playing Canadian casino slots to satisfy his addiction to avoid going there physically and the Canadian service was used since it is still illegal to gamble online in the United States. Michael Jordan has denied these allegations in 1993 stating that he has “a competition problem” rather than a gambling one in his interview with Ahmad Rashad. As true as this statement can be, it is still a fact that Jordan is known for his history with gambling. He is known to have bet on everything from golf to cards even extending this courtesy to his teammates and the security guards.
It is also worth noting that Jordan didn’t always want to be associated with Nikes. In the 1980s, Nike was known as a track shoe. At this time the NBA was dominated by Converse, which was represented by stars like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Since the latter had already netted large names like these, they were not considered a rookie like Jordan. In the “The Last Dance,” which is a 10 part documentary series which follows Michael Jordan and Bulls’ actions towards a sixth championship in 1998, he states that Converse has stated directly to him that they couldn’t envision Jordan being put ahead of the superstars like Larry and Magic Johnson.
Jordan himself was eyeing out a contract with Adidas, however, his agent David Falk, strongly insisted on Nike due to the fact that Adidas was a bit dysfunctional at the time even going as far as stating that they would love to go for Jordan but couldn’t see any shoe work at that point in time. Michael Jordan is 21 years old and was quite stubborn at the time and Falk couldn’t even make him board a plane to visit Nike’s campus. The witty agent decided to call up his parents and request them to speak to him. As Jordan recalls his mom literally made him get on that plane and go listen to Nike’s representatives.
On-campus he met up with Nike executive Howard White and this is where the company offered Michael Jordan a deal a rookie would not be able to turn down at any point. As Howard himself recalls at that time the best of the best would get deals like $100,000 or so. Michael Jordan was offered $250,000. When the deal was signed Nike expected to sell around $3 million worth of Air Jordans and this was considered highballing it. However, to everyone’s positive surprise, the first year netted them $126 million worth of sales.
This amount of money was unbelievable for Jordan himself. It is worth noting that his mother recalls Michael writing a letter to her asking for some stamps and spending money as he only had $20 to his name at that time.