The bursting of Zion Williamson’s sneakers caused a considerable backlash.
The Duke freshman forward, considered by many to be the best college basketball player in the country, injured his right knee on Wednesday after the Nike shoe on his left foot burst near the sole line at the start of the game against North Carolina. It was an embarrassing spill, and although Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski said Williamson suffered from a slight sprained knee, it raised questions about product liability and the liability of the clothing giants of sports such as Nike who have multi-million dollar contracts with schools.
One of the immediate results of Williamson’s injury was that Nike’s stock took a hit. Reuters reported that shares of Nike Inc fell 2% in early trading on Thursday. Reuters also reported that shares of Adidas and Puma rose slightly.
Nike released a statement after the game, won by the Tar Heels, saying the company was “clearly concerned” and wished Williamson a “speedy recovery”.
“The quality and performance of our products is of the utmost importance,” the Nike statement read. âAlthough this is an isolated event, we are working to identify the problem. ”
What was wrong with the shoe? Did the shoe ship to Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon? A Nike spokesperson said on Thursday that he stood by his statement and had no further comment.
Nike has a long-standing relationship with Duke Athletics and Krzyzewski, and the school and company agreed to a 12-year contract extension in 2015. Duke, a private institution, does not publicize its Nike contract or financial agreements of the company with the coaches.
But similar contracts with other schools offer legal protections to clothing companies.
The UNC recently signed a new 42-page contract with Nike and fulfilled contractual obligations that the school must meet. The contract includes this condition: “Nike will not be liable to the University, any team member, coach or staff for any injury or damage suffered as a result of wearing or using Nike products, except for such injury or damage resulting from the negligence of Nike. ”
NC State has a sportswear contract with Adidas which contains a similar provision – that the company is not liable for “any injury or damage” suffered as a result of wearing or using Adidas products, to the except those resulting from ânegligent or intentional actsâ of Adidas.
“Light, but strong”
Williamson wore company-designed Nike PG 2.5 shoes for the NBA’s Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The company, in its promotions, describes the PG 2.5 as being “for the most versatile players in the game. It’s light but strong”,
As Williamson tried to stop quickly in the lane, the left sneaker broke. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson fell to the ground in pain barely 36 seconds into the game and did not return. UNC won 88-72.
Krzyzewski has said he doesn’t know how long Williamson will be away. Some NBA players took to social media Wednesday night and Thursday to urge Williamson not to play the rest of the season and wait for the NBA Draft, and not to further compromise his NBA career.
Last fall, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa suffered an abdominal injury early in the season that required surgery. Considered a top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Bosa recovered, but then announced he would let the rest of the season pass to prepare for the Draft.
Clothing issues have arisen in the past. In the late 1990s, former North Carolina state basketball coach Herb Sendek had a shoe contract with Adidas, but allowed his players to wear Nike in games after players suffered fractures to their feet wearing the Adidas sneakers.
There were also legal issues. In 1998, in a $ 12 million lawsuit against UNC women’s football coach Anson Dorrance and other UNC officials by former players Debbie Keller and Melissa Jennings, he was alleged that Keller had suffered physical and emotional distress as a result of a heel injury in the fall of 1995 which involved competition between Nike and Adidas.
The lawsuit claimed Keller was injured in 1995 while wearing an Adidas football boot tested by the Women’s Football Program. Keller alleged that Dorrance denied her the use of a custom-made Adidas shoe that would help her recover and that she subsequently got one from Nike. She says Dorrance informed her that she could not attend Olympic camp or wear the Nike shoe when she was on the UNC team. Dorrance, Keller alleged, interfered with his plans in order to gain influence in his negotiation with Nike for sponsorship of his UNC program.
The lawsuit was settled with Keller in 2004.
In 2008, Ally Baker of Raleigh, considered a rising star of international tennis, sued Adidas for negligence, claiming that the Adidas shoes caused a foot problem that forced her to retire from the sport in 2004. The lawsuit, filed in North Carolina court, was later fired for an inappropriate location.
This story was originally published February 21, 2019 4:24 pm.