Reebok clips Falcon's wings: Player's endorsement deal dropped over Nike gaffe
By Jennifer Heldt Powell
Thursday, October 27, 2005 - Updated: 05:46 PM EST
An angry Reebok International Ltd. yesterday took the drastic step of tossing a top National Football League player off its roster of endorsers after he was caught playing in shoes bearing the rival Nike swoosh.
Atlanta Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall was supposed to be hawking Canton-based Reebok's gear. But he took to the field on live television Monday night wearing Nike cleats.
That's a major no-no in the high stakes world of sports marketing.
``This is a big deal because it's a mark against Reebok,'' said Doug Shabelman, senior vice president of Burns Sports Marketing.
Hall's agent said prior to Reebok's move yesterday afternoon that his camp was staying mum for the moment.
It's rare for an athlete to shun his own sponsor in favor of a rival's products, though it happens from time to time, sports experts said. In cases where athletes under contract have worn a rival's mark, they've often covered up the logo so it's not identified.
But there on ABC's Monday Night Football for the nation to see was the famous swoosh on Hall's shoe as Atlanta beat the New York Jets.
``It's embarrassing and it provides an opportunity for penalty clauses,'' said Marc Ganis, president and founder of Sports Corp., about athletes forgoing the gear they're supposed to wear.
In this case, the penalty is a lost contract.
``Effective immediately, DeAngelo Hall will no longer be a Reebok-endorsed athlete,'' said John Lynch, vice president of sports marketing for Reebok.
Reebok was no doubt sending a strong message to other athletes with its hardline move, sports marketers said.
Hall, who leads the Falcons with four interceptions, signed on with Reebok when he started his professional career last year. It's not clear how much he'll lose or whether his Nike-wearing stint has won him a place in that company's lineup.