Do Teams Even Own Practice Jersey Rights?

NY Giants
NY Giants

When the New York Giants trotted out for practice today in Albany, they were expected to wear the Timex logo on their jerseys for the first time, part of watch brand’s sponsorship with the team.

Despite a high six-figure endorsement annual endorsement deal with Citizen, a Timex competitor, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will wear the patch -– with a catch, of course.

Manning's jersey has the patch on it and news crews might be able to film the small patch – 3½ inches by 4½ inches - from afar, but for this practice and all future practices, Manning is not expected to give Timex much love due to his conflict of interest. We're told Manning will do interviews before practice in a t-shirt and will take off his pads for any interviews after practice.

I don’t expect Manning to make a stink, but I’m not sure others won’t if these deals compromise their endorsement deals.

Manning’s situation is the most high profile because he’s the only guy who has a big time endorsement deal that conflicts with the practice jersey deal. The Jets and Bears have hospital deals, the Rams have an airline deal and the Colts are being sponsored by an insurance company. None of the players on these teams has legitimate conflicts with any of those sponsorships.

But we don’t think this is the end of it, especially with the NBA saying they are going to sell practice jersey rights to companies. What happens if the Cavs or the Lakers do a patch deal with Gatorade while LeBron and Kobe are pushing Vitaminwater ?

Some people think it’s common sense that the league owns the athletes while they are in the arena or on the field. It’s why there are fines in both leagues if a player wears a non-league sponsor during a game.

But there are plenty of sports marketers who think that these practice deals won’t hold up with a legal challenge from someone who had a previous endorsement deal with a competing company.

Update: Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon said that no player will be interviewed in their practice jersey because media availability comes after practice when the players are already in their street clothes.

Questions? Comments?