We need your help!
This is the story of small black-owned sportswear called BALL’N battling against the powerful NIKE brand, and your decision to support us in this battle will help all small businesses across the country. The only way that NIKE will stop bullying small companies like ours and begin to respect the rights of small businesses across America is for us to fight them and let them know the consumer believes NIKE’S action in this situation is wrong. So we are going to “just do that” and fight them. Your small donation and your comments on this issue can help us fight the $33 billion dollar giant. This is a true David vs Goliath situation!! We need your help, support and comments.
NIKE Inc V Just Succ It
NIKE will probably file a lawsuit against us for using the phrase “just do that” in the above paragraph because that’s what NIKE did to Andrea Galbreath company Just Succ it. NIKE filed a lawsuit against Andrea’s company, trying to get her company to stop using the name Just Succ it. Andrea company sells PLANTS, Succulent Plants. Not sportswear but Plants. Based on trademark protection rights, a company has the right to defend and protect its brand name from other companies. If, the other company doesn’t sell the same product as your company, it’s tough to prove infringement if the consumer is not confused and it’s tough for me to see anyone thinking of going to a Succulent Plant website if they are looking for sportswear or footwear.
Trademark infringement from the US Government website
NIKE’S blatant Infringement on our BALL’N name
At the same time that NIKE is going after Andrea’s company Just Succ it, NIKE is also going after hundreds of other small companies using names similar to NIKE or Just Do It. You would think that NIKE having to go after so many other companies for using names similar to NIKE or Just Do It, that NIKE would respect other companies' brand names and not use names similar to other brands especially companies in the same industry as them and especially a small black owned company. WRONG!! NIKE recently launched a line of college basketball t-shirts under the name of ballin, a very similar name to our BALL’N brand name. This has already caused significant confusion in the marketplace with our customers. This is a blatant infringement on our BALL’N name and the BALL’N brand has been sold at similar retail stores along with the NIKE brand for many years. How can a company have it both ways? NIKE stop everyone else from using names similar to NIKE or Just Do It. But NIKE feels it can use a name remarkably similar to our BALL’N name, and sell that product to the same retailer as which our BALL’N product is being sold at. This is massive confusion in the marketplace!! NIKE’S appropriation of our BALL’N name is so blatant that NIKE didn’t even change the style letter font of our “B.” NIKE used the same similar “B” with the tail at the top of the “B” as we do. Many people have said to me that being copied by the largest sportswear brand in the world is incredibly flattering and shows you are doing something right. Yes, this may be true, but it’s also illegal. My parents (RIH to Both my parents) ingrained in my brothers and myself to treat and respect other as you would want them to treat and respect you. NIKE wants ever company to not infringe and profit off of a name similar to NIKE or Just Do It, which makes total sense. Well, NIKE should practice that respect to us.
BALL’N Brand Short History
A little history for you. After serving in the US Army and being stationed in South Korea, I Founded the BALL'N brand in 1991. Typically, the U.S. Army is not synonymous with the sportswear business. However, while stationed in Korea, I played on the Army’s Traveling Basketball Team, and during any downtime, I would visit footwear and apparel factories hosting tours. I was fascinated with the process, and upon returning to Chicago, I decided to launch a sports brand. I didn’t know what name to use for my company. Many friends and family members would give me ideas, but nothing stood out to me. I would go to the library every day to look for books and article on the sportswear industry to learn and research as much as possible. This was pre-internet, so no google. One day on my search through the library, the librarian called me over and said, “I have something for you.” She pulled out the book, and the words jumped out at me. I saw the phrase Swoosh: The Unauthorized Story of NIKE and the men who played there. This book was co-written by Julie Strasser and Laurie Becklund both past NIKE employees. I was like, Wow!! This is so great, a book about the men who help built the NIKE brand. I felt the Lord was helping me out because he knew I had no understanding or experience in starting a sportswear company. My goal has always been to build the first major black-owned lifestyle sportswear brand.
How I came up with the BALL’N name
After reading the book I found out that Julie Strasser was the wife of Rob Strasser, who in 1990 was known as the Great Guru and most powerful person in the footwear and sports apparel industry. For the next month I read that book from start to finish over 20 times. The book was like a how-to guide to starting a sportswear brand. But the chapter that changed everything for me and helped me formulate and develop the name BALL’N (ball’n, ballin, balling—an ambiguous yet popular street term used worldwide to describe impressive athletic performance) this chapter was called “how do we compete,” which focused on how NIKE would have to figure out a way to compete with the more prominent powerhouse brands like Adidas and Puma. Rob was sitting inside NIKE’S very small ten by ten booths at the Chicago sportswear show, and Rob realized that they needed to focus on marketing efforts that would help make the name Nike synonymous with sports to the consumer. At the time (1975) Rob felt that Adidas was synonymous with the Olympics, which translated well to the consumers. I said to myself, I will come up with a name already synonymous with sports and not just sports but great sports performances. That chapter led me down the road to come up with the name BALL’N.
Rob Strasser and Peter Moore (RIP to both) 1990 had just left NIKE and had started their own consulting company. The back of the Swoosh book had their mailing address, so I decided who better to pitch my BALL’N brand concept to than Rob Strasser and Peter Moore. So, I wrote Rob a letter and sent him my BALL’N samples line. Three months later, I got a call saying Rob was in downtown Chicago and would be staying till tomorrow and would love to chat. I beelined it downtown to the hotel where Rob was staying, and when I first saw Rob sitting in the lobby lounge, he said to me on the phone that you would recognize me very quickly, I will be the only guy in the lobby lounge that looks like Santa Clause. He was so right. I couldn’t believe I was sitting down and talking with the great Rob Strasser. We talked for hours that day, and Rob stated to me that he loved the vision that I had for the BALL’N brand and Rob also stated to me that Peter loved our BALL’N name and logo. That meant the world to me coming from Peter Moore. Peter is known for many great things at NIKE and Adidas. Peter created the first Jordan logo and then the Redefine jump man logo. To have Peter say he loved the logo and name, I was extremely happy to hear that.
After several discussions over the next six months, Rob offered to bring the BALL’N brand and myself to Adidas. Rob became the new CEO of Adidas USA and built the first Adidas USA headquarters out in the Portland area. Rob let me know it would take a while to get things approved from Germany as Adidas already had a basketball brand called “Streetball” that the German headquarters really liked. Both Rob and Peter felt BALL’N could be a far more impactful sub-brand for the US market than the German Streetball brand. Unfortunately, as Rob stated, it took a long time to put things in place for BALL’N to join the Adidas. BALL’N wasn’t high on the must-do list for Rob and Peter at that time as I totally understand. Rob continued to tell me to be patient as he felt he would be able to get the Germany headquarters to except the BALL’N brand as a better basketball sub-brand for the American market. While we was waiting Rob offered me the opportunity to join his management team asap and help his team in the Adidas basketball division. I thought about this option long and hard, but my gut said to wait until we can also close on a deal for the BALL’N brand. I past on the job and said I would wait. Rob and Peter both understood. One month later, I received a great offer from Bike Athletic Company which would allow us to maintain 100% ownership of the BALL’N brand, I took the deal from Bike and we licensed the BALL’N name to Bike Athletic Company for apparel and uniforms. Unfortunately, a year later, Rob passed away.
Never Ever Give Up
I’ve shared this story with you all because Rob Strasser and Peter Moore's belief in myself and BALL’N back then has been one of the driving forces that has allowed me to not listen to so many others in the Industry who never believed in my vision for BALL’N. The many retailers and brands in the 90’s that told me they had no clue what BALL’N meant, and many others told me straight out the name was ghetto and hood and would never be used and excepted in the mainstream. I ignored all of them and many others over the many years, and I held on to my knowledge that the Great Rob Strasser and Peter Moore believed in BALL’N and myself. I held on to the many conversations we would have about the industry and about the journey they had build NIKE. I learned more from my conversations with Rob, than I have over the past 25 years in the industry. I ran into Julie Strasser many years ago, and she signed my book. I will never forget what Julie said to me. She said, “what are you doing with this book. It looks like it’s been in a war.” She the said, “well, at least I know you have read it.”
When I first saw the NIKE Ballin T-shirts on TV, I felt like a knife was being jammed directly into my heart. I would have never believed that NIKE would ever infringe on our name. I have proposed to NIKE many years to collaborate with BALL’N on a BALL’N by NIKE collection but they past every time. So, again I was extremely shocked when I saw the NIKE Ballin T-shirts.
Now, I’ve seen and read many statements from NIKE about how it feels about Black Lives Matter. Well, BALL’N is founded by a black male from Chicago and in my opinion, the statements made by Nike on Black Lives Matter contradict its action it has taken against our BALL’N name. Here are just a few of the comments from Nike regarding Black Lives Matter. John Donahoe, President and CEO of NIKE, Inc., has stated that NIKE must educate themselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates. In addition, Nike has stated during this past year; we’ve stepped up our efforts and measures of accountability in the areas of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging to foster an inclusive environment and attract a more diverse workforce. At NIKE we believe in a level playing field for all. Now, if NIKE genuinely believes in all those statements, NIKE would immediately do the following:
1. Stop using the ballin name on all NIKE products.
2. Pay BALL’N a fair royalty for the product sold under the Ballin name by NIKE.
3. Sit down with BALL’N and discuss how we can collaborate on a BALL’N collection of products with proceed going to at-risk youth programs across America.
If these options are not suitable to NIKE, we will have no other choice but to file a lawsuit against NIKE for its blatant infringement. We will also be filing lawsuits against other companies that illegally appropriated the BALL’N name.
I would like to acknowledge that NIKE over the many years has used its company platforms to support youth and at risk programs across America. Nike has done a lot of good with the incredibly reach and power. But this latest move by NIKE to infringe on a small black owned brand is WRONG, Dead WRONG and very hypocritical of NIKE as well. Please let NIKE know how you feel about their infringement of our BALL’N name. Please make any size donation and leave a comment.