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Saturday, May 6, 2006

ITF Dress Code Changes Bring Lawsuit from Adidas

Back in March, the ITF's website featured a notice on the revised dress code. It was "effective immediately" except for the limitations on the size of the Adidas three-stripes, which had a June 26 implementation date.

Anyone, junior or pro, who wears Adidas clothing would have to insure that the stripes are no bigger than four inches on each piece of clothing. In this photo of Chardy, it's obvious that he's going to need an entirely new wardrobe.

When Peter Bodo got wind of this back in November, he posted his objection to this restriction, but even someone with Peter's audience and influence couldn't dissuade the ITF from adopting it.

This is a huge blow for Adidas of course, and last month they announced they were suing the Grand Slams over this decision.

John Toppel, Adidas' Tennis Sports Marketing Coordinator, has been keeping me up-to-date on this, as the juniors they sponsor will need to have all their clothing replaced before Junior Wimbledon starts.

He sent me a release explaining their position. An excerpt follows:

In their dress code, the ITF and Grand Slams explicitly state that the adidas "3-stripes" will be considered a manufacturer's identification at their tournaments, which discriminates against adidas and infringes elementary EU competition rights. adidas "3-stripes" are not a standard manufacturer's logo, as the adidas manufacturer's logo is clearly the adidas performance logo. This logo has always been used in conformity with the Grand Slam and ITF Rules regarding Dress. adidas "3-stripes" are an integral part of the product - although a trademark, and not a standard logo - and they have been used for over 30 years in a consistent way, without any objection by the Grand Slams or the ITF.
All other manufacturers try to create identification tools and endeavor to differentiate their products with different patterns, distinctive designs, colors, promotion concepts, etc. However, none of these elements has been pinpointed as constituting a manufacturer's identification in the way that adidas' 3-Stripes have.
In the light of the immense impact of the rule change on the sport of tennis on all levels of play worldwide, on timelines concerning production and retail and on anticipated severe losses, adidas has no other alternative and is forced to protect its interests. adidas has therefore started legal proceedings and issued a claim form at the High Court of Justice in London, which is to being served on the organisers of the Grand Slam tournaments and the ITF. adidas seeks the right to continue to use "3-stripes". adidas is also applying for interim injunctive relief in order to restrain the introduction of the new ruling pending full trial.

I've always been partial personally to the Adidas stripes and style and I agree with Peter Bodo that the ITF is basically punishing success here.

But I'm posting about it because I'm concerned about the juniors who buy their own clothes and can't afford to replace their Adidas outfits just to make sure they conform. Maybe most of those playing the Grand Slam juniors are sponsored, but I assure you that many playing in ITF Grade 5s in College Station or Baton Rouge are not. This is a big, silly mess and tennis has much more important issues to address.

But I don't want to see a player denied a chance to compete because he or she doesn't know about it, so I'm hoping that this helps get the word out.


Anonymous said...

Indeed, Adidas offers (at least they did as of a year ago - we're out of Junior tennis!) ranked Juniors a good 'package' that includes several shirts, shorts, a bag, and a couple of pairs of Baricades, all at a really good price. It's the best way to get the shoes at a good price and the shirts are a great deal.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like an NCAA violation - offering discounts based on athletic ability/achievement?

Colette Lewis said...

It is not a violation, but I'm not conversant enough with the NCAA regs to quote chapter and verse.

Anonymous said...

It can't be a violation - if so, virtually every junior playing national tournaments would be in violation. Babolat sells "the package" to juniors, bunch of racquets, bag, strings, etc, for a good price and my guess is at least a third of the top 200 juniors are playing with Babolats.
Also, college players get everything but racquets.

Anonymous said...

? even though it sounds a bit too simplified of a statement "discounts based on athletic ability/achievement" you can find examples of that in everyday life, it's like saying people who are a part of a tennis club get extra deals because they can afford the membership price. And along that line, being a part of any group be it sports, state affiliation,the socioeconomic status of your area, comes preferential treatment. And it isn't necessarily wrong.
-actually in response to giving to discounts to junior's, they are giving them discounts but that's only half of the deal, players must then pledge to represent Adidas.
This is not a violation and this is coming from a former Prince national team player. Besides you really think companies want juniors who aren't highly ranked/aren't popular to represent and wear their brand?

Anonymous said...

Well it's a violation if they do it while in college, so the thinking was that it could apply in some cases to juniors. The way around it in college is to offer packages to the coaches/schools.

player said...

Europe and S. America aren't nearly as insane as America, as I've worn my Adidas wear and had no problems, but have been made to change before being allowed to play - in America.

The funny part? They specifically ban T-shirts or college logos, yet when I was being hassled in the US for wearing ADIDAS TENNIS CLOTHES, the 2 guys on the court next to me had on an across-the-chest stringmaker's logo, and the other guy was wearing a college-logo T- shirt.

It's a 'tool' that can be used to hassle a player, if they so choose, is basically what it is.