Oiselle, a running apparel company, has received a cease-and-desist letter from USA Track & Field. Oiselle's crime? Removing the Nike Swoosh from a national team photo.
Per the letter from USATF:
"The removal and replacement of the Nike Swoosh, especially in the context of a promotional piece, misleads consumers to believe that the USATF team is sponsored by these other brands and not by Nike. Oiselle's display of these doctored photographs not only damages Nike, which is likely to suffer (or has already suffered) direct lost sales resulting from such confusion, but also diminishes the value of USTAF's [SIC] sponsorship and licensing relationships."
Ignore the fact that USATF can't seem to get its own acronym right; USATF is arguing that by doctoring out the Swoosh on the national team uniforms from this weekend's 2014 IAAF World Relays, it cheapens their brand. Fine.
But USATF is only as strong as its athletes, and Oiselle has put their money where their mouth is to support those athletes, just like a lot of other companies. Nike may be the biggest sponsor of post-collegiate track and field athletes, but more and more of those athletes are defecting to companies like Oiselle, which pays a livable wage and also has a reflection in the mirror. When those athletes make a national team, like the Olympics, world championships, or World Relays (hosted this weekend by the Bahamas), those same U.S. athletes that Nike isn't supporting are now required to be in the official Nike uniform. Or else.
We got here because USATF sold these uniforms to Nike until 2040, all without athlete input. Athletes and competing companies are not happy about it (and furthermore, USATF probably got screwed in the deal), but USATF has done its darndest to ignore the repeated calls for answers and for reform, banking on the weight of apathy to quiet down their serfs. If, however, those serfs use Photoshop, expect a quick response with the threat of suing your balls off.
Also from the letter:
"Although USTAF [SIC] prefers to resolve this matter expeditiously and without resort to litigation, it fully intends to take all steps necessary to protect its rights."
Oiselle quickly capitulated, removing the photo from their Instagram.
To be clear, World Relays is small potatoes. Most of the best athletes in the world didn't show up. But for many up-and-coming athletes, which have had financial partnerships with a lot of other companies, it's their first taste of national glory. The Nike-USATF Complex's latest saber-rattling is just one more way they're working in tandem to throttle the sport's future. In the land of the blind, Nike remains king.