Neither Rory McIlroy nor Nike officials have yet to confirm the countless rumors that McIlroy will be signing on with the powerhouse brand in 2013, but a recent turn of events provides further volume for the whispers.
According to a report on ESPN.com, apparel-maker Oakley – with whom McIlroy has an eyewear and performance apparel contract through Dec. 31 of this year – has sued McIlroy and Nike, saying they breached McIlroy's existing contract with Oakley when he recently signed a new deal with Nike.
McIlroy's deal with Oakley includes what is known as a 'right of first refusal' – a contract clause that allowed Oakley to match any offer that included payments to McIlroy for eyewear and apparel. If Oakley wanted to match what Nike offered, its deal would continue into 2013 instead of expiring at the end of the year.
Reports estimate McIlroy's head-to-toe deal with Nike worth an excess of $200 million across 10 years. If that's the case, Oakley's contractual rights to McIlroy's endorsements of eyewear and performance apparel would be 30 percent of the total Nike package, or roughly $60 million. Oakley says its attempts at a counteroffer were ignored by McIlroy and his agent, Conor Ridge.
Currently in dispute is a string of emails between a sports marketing executive at Oakley named Pat McIlvain and Ridge that began in September. It is reported that McIlvain sent Ridge an email late on Saturday, Sept. 29 that said: 'Understood. We are out of the mix. No contract for 2013. Pat Mac.'
McIlroy's management company released a statement to ESPN.com Friday asserting that 'McIlroy has fulfilled all of his obligations to Oakley, and the claims in the lawsuit are entirely baseless.'
Oakley filed a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif. The company says the damage that has resulted from McIlroy's refusal to renew with Oakley is 'irreparable' and entitles Oakley to an injunction that would stop Nike and McIlroy from concluding or implementing their contract. Oakley is also claiming money damages and asserts that it has spent $300,000 on a photo shoot for the products McIlroy would have endorsed in 2013.
McIlroy and Acushnet Co. (Titleist/FootJoy) released a statement in late October announcing they would not renew their contract for 2013.