ATLANTA — With the release of its “Ri5e to the Occasion” T-shirts last week, multi-billion dollar shoe company Adidas drew deserved flack for blatantly profiteering off of a collegiate athlete’s injury.
The athlete, of course, is No. 5 Kevin Ware, Louisville’s athletic guard who gruesomely broke his leg against Duke in the Elite Eight and is now out of basketball for at least one year, per his coach Rick Pitino.
According to a USA TODAY report, though an Adidas spokesperson said the company has stopped all sales of the $25 shirt.
Legal issues are most likely the cause of the sudden halt. NCAA schools are not allowed to reference specific players on merchandise — especially in the midst of the Ed O’Bannon case, a potentially lucrative lawsuit headed by the former UCLA star over the use of college athletes’ images and likenesses. Louisville, from the beginning, acknowledged the shirts were a tribute to Ware and waived its traditional royalties for its production. (Of course, universities can sell jerseys with the numbers of star players and pretend it is merely coincidental, but that’s another story entirely.)
In return, Adidas was set to make contributions to the university’s scholarship fund.
Zero percent of the proceeds were set to be given to Ware; you know, the one person this entire national media frenzy is about. Adidas told USA TODAY Sports that it stopped selling the shirt due to a “use of logo issue.”
Ware’s teammates, Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, were just a few among thousands who recognized the disparity.
“Overall, it’s something that I want to comment on but I don’t know if it’s my place right now. I definitely raises an eyebrow, I’m gonna go that far,” said Smith, the leading scorer in the NCAA tournament, at Friday afternoon’s player breakout sessions at the World Congress Center in Atlanta. “Kevin’s my friend. And I take business classes like that and I know the kind of route that’s going.”
Added Siva: “As far as profits and everything, it kind of sucks, him being in college that he can’t really see any of it.”
Louisville told media members Ware was not available Friday due to fatigue.
The Cardinals take on Wichita State in one of two national semifinals on Saturday.