Runner's Success Story Is Wild. So Is His Fight With Nike

Boris Berian hopes to raise $25K for legal fight
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2016 9:18 AM CDT
Updated Jun 26, 2016 7:03 AM CDT
Runner's Success Story Is Wild. So Is His Fight With Nike
Boris Berian after winning the men's 800-meter sprint final at the IAAF'S World Indoor Championships.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Two years ago, Boris Berian was a college dropout working at McDonald's. He now hopes to run for Team USA at the Olympics, but first he has to clear a major hurdle: a lawsuit from Nike. And he wants your help. The world champion in the indoor 800-meter is hoping to crowdfund what his agent calls a "David vs. Goliath battle" after Nike sued him in May over a sponsorship agreement, per BuzzFeed. Nike finished a seven-month contract with Berian in December but reserved the right to match rival offers until June 28, in which case Nike would emerge the victor. When New Balance offered Berian a three-year contract worth $375,000 plus bonuses, Nike says it matched it. But the Nike deal included clauses that would've cut his pay by up to 50% if he didn't meet certain performance standards, reports OregonLive. Nike says such clauses are standard practice. Berian, New Balance, and others in the industry disagree.

The lawsuit notes Berian's breach of contract "will cause irreparable harm to Nike," which has thus far prevented Berian from signing with New Balance, whose sneakers he says he prefers and has been training in. "To force him to wear some other brand at this point would be incredibly unfair," says his agent, Hawi Keflezighi. Now the athlete is earning nothing in "the peak of his earnings potential" and must pay an expected $25,000 in legal fees when he has had only "a little bit of income to support himself for the last several months," Keflezighi says, writing, "This case has a chance to be a landmark case in athlete's rights." Support for Berian is growing online using the hashtag #FreeBoris. A decision is expected next Wednesday, two days before Berian will compete in the 800-meter race at the US Olympic trials, per the Denver Post. About $3,300 has been raised as of this writing. (More Nike stories.)

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