Reebok paid $204 million back in 2004 for the right to manufacture National Hockey League gear for players and fans. The relationship between the sports apparel giant and the League has led to its redesign of the NHL jersey and to Reebok being a title sponsor of the League's Manhattan retail flagship. Hockey stars like Sidney Crosbyof the Pittsburgh Penguins have become among the most prominent faces for Reebok's gear.
NBA legend and Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan?
Not exactly a hockey star.
He's also the foundation on which the Nike empire was constructed, which led to a bit of awkwardness when he donned a Chicago Blackhawks jersey during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
Jordan was at the United Center on Friday night's game against the Detroit Red Wings, greeting the crowd in a No. 23 Blackhawks sweater. His appearance was another indication that the franchise has successfully recaptured the imagination of Chicago sports fans or, at the very least, it has reeled in the bandwagoners who only get interested when the locals are winning and/or have Michael Jordan in the building.
However, Jordan's wave to the recently converted was predicated on some hockey sweater preventative maintenance; as in, preventing the God of Nike from being photographed with a Reebok logo near his unmistakable noggin.
ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski writes:
I mean, when's the last time you saw MJ at a hockey game? Even more incredible, when's the last time Jordan slipped on a personalized No. 23 Hawks sweater (but only after team officials sewed a red patch over the maker's company logo), walked out to his seat and happily posed and waved to the geeked crowd as the Versus cameras recorded every surreal moment?
This is far from the first time Jordan (or his handlers) have painstakingly avoiding an indirect endorsement of another sports apparel line. Like in 2007, when he placed a piece of athletic tape over an Adidas logo.
I don't know if Jordan's still contractually forbidden to wear non-Nike gear, or if the very idea of flashing a non-swoosh logo simply gives him a rash, but this little episode really highlights the continuing absurdity of how sportswear companies have become entangled with leagues and athletes.
Just as the Blackhawks' episode highlights how sports business loyalties are always going to be considered before committing to civic pride, especially if you're Michael Jordan.
Thank Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports for the story.