Don't blame Marcus Jordan for Nike spat

BY foxsports • November 7, 2009

The kid just wants to be like Mike. He's got the tattoos with "M" on one deltoid, "J" on the other. He plays basketball with an intense passion. Most important, his shoes are Classic Nike Air Jordans, just like the ones dad used to wear. About the only thing Marcus Jordan doesn't have is his father's game, which is why he ended up at the University of Central Florida instead of following Michael Jordan's large footsteps to North Carolina or signing with another basketball powerhouse. That's not necessarily the younger MJ's fault. A lot of kids have problems living up to their father's accomplishments, and from the moment Marcus first picked up a basketball he was destined to be compared to his very famous dad. Something else isn't his fault, either. He's not the one who cost his university a lucrative equipment contract because he insisted on honoring his father's legacy by lacing up his Air Jordans in an exhibition game the other night. Blame the pinheads at the university for not realizing that in today's world of big-money college athletics this was a bigger deal than they thought. Blame the coach for giving Jordan a scholarship mostly so he could use his name to put the basketball program on the map. Blame Adidas for having a hissy fit over something it could have easily ignored. But don't blame Marcus Jordan. The freshman guard who bears the burden of living under his father's shadow was just doing what he said he would do from the moment UCF came calling. "When I was being recruited, we talked about it," Marcus told the Orlando Sentinel. "They said they had talked to the Adidas people, and it wasn't going to be a problem. I think everybody understands how big of a deal it is for my family." No, everybody doesn't understand. Browse the message boards on the Internet and the younger Jordan is being savaged as greedy, petulant, stubborn and a bad teammate for refusing to wear Adidas shoes like the rest of the Knights. They see no reason why Jordan should be allowed to wear a competitor's shoes when Adidas was laying out a reported $3 million over five years to outfit athletes at UCF. They see no reason a freshman who will struggle for playing time should be able to call his own shots simply because he happens to have a legendary basketball name on his back. Marcus has his reasons. Most of them have to do with the fact Nike made his father rich - no, make that incredibly rich - over the years and that wearing anything other than the shoes named after him would be considered disrespectful at best and a betrayal of the family name at worst. Marcus Jordan made that clear to UCF at the outset. And UCF made it clear to him that it would not be a problem because some middle manager at Adidas apparently told them it wouldn't be. But now it is. The higher ups at Adidas were so incensed at Jordan publicly putting on his namesake shoes that they terminated the company's contract with the university, which was in its final year. Just how the people running the athletic program at UCF feel about this is hard to tell. They put out a statement saying they were blindsided by the decision to void the contract, but a phone call to athletic director Keith Tribble's office went unreturned. How they should feel is stupid. Unless they had something in writing from Adidas lawyers they had no business assuring Marcus Jordan that he could wear his Nike shoes. Even if they did, they had to understand that this was always a potentially volatile situation. Of course, the odds are that Nike - sensing an opportunity for yet another publicity coup - will step in and give UCF a contract even bigger than the one it had with Adidas. Meanwhile, the Knights will continue enjoying the attention Jordan brings them. There's a deeper issue in all of this that has gone mostly unnoticed, namely that the big equipment companies have way too much influence in college sports, and that schools are beholden to them for their millions. UCF is in this situation because it sold itself to the highest bidder. And when you sell out, you have to do as you are told. Marcus Jordan is just a minor player in all of this. All he wanted to do was be like Mike. --- Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)