Oakley sues Rory McIlroy over Nike deal

Rory McIlroy
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Oakley is suing Rory McIlroy over the right keep its "O" on his shirt in place of a Nike "swoosh."

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Saturday, December 15, 2012 | 12:02 a.m.

Rory McIlroy and Nike Golf haven't yet officially announced that they have signed a big new endorsement deal, but already there's some serious consternation over it.

Oakley, which makes sunglasses and apparel, has sued McIlroy and Nike, according to a report on ESPN.com. Filed in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., the suit claims that McIlroy violated his contract with Oakley by not honoring the clause that gives Oakley "right of first refusal." Essentially, Oakley says, it has the right to match the Nike offer, but that McIlroy and his management team ignored the counteroffer.

Oakley's suit contends that its new contract for McIlroy's endorsement of its eyewear and apparel would be 30 percent of the Nike deal. McIlroy's arrangement with Nike is reported to be around $200 million, so, ESPN.com says, Oakley likely offered about $60 million to keep its association with McIlroy. Interestingly, the court papers don't include a specific number, instead saying the deal is worth only "$_M."

The damage that McIlroy's refusal to renew would cause is "irreparable" and, the company says, entitles Oakley to an injunction that would stop Nike and McIlroy from implementing their deal. The ESPN.com report details a series of back-and-forth emails between McIlroy's team and Oakley that no doubt will play a key role in the suit's ultimate resolution.

McIlroy's management company released a statement to ESPN.com on Friday asserting that "McIlroy has fulfilled all of his obligations to Oakley, and the claims in the lawsuit are entirely baseless."