Kyrie Irving, having recently voiced his opinion on the latest version of his signature sneaker has apparently softened his stance.
Through NBA Reporter, Shams Charania, Irving issued the following statement:
“When you’re building something great, there sometimes comes a point when you need to recalibrate and refocus to ensure everyone involved is aligned. This is where the KAI11 brand and Nike are. It was unfair to put the blame on Nike or any one person. With that being said, we are diligently working, restructuring, and reimagining things together to make sure we get it right.”
This is a full 180 from his previous stance, taking to Instagram to call the sneakers “trash” and lamenting that he hasn’t been involved with the design or creation of the shoes.
To say that this sort of retraction was unexpected could not be more of a falsity, but I am surprised that Nike decided to play ball and not void the contract or otherwise initiate a lawsuit. In my last article, “Nike Won’t Get a Kick Out of Kyrie’s Instagram Comment,” I suggested that Irving’s initial statement could have constituted a breach of contract with Nike, specifically violating a clause that prevents the ambassador, in this case Irving, from making disparaging statements about the products or the brand. It stands to be confirmed if such a clause does indeed exist in his contract, but I would be incredibly surprised if it didn’t.
It’s also not surprising that Irving walked his statement back because according to Forbes, as of 2019, he was making $11 million annually from Nike. If Nike had voided the contract because the comment was a breach, he would have lost out on that and that’s a lot of money to lose, especially because of an Instagram comment.
Irving has long been known to be very vocal, speaking his mind on just about anything, from the planet being flat to the need to “cleanse the energy” in the Celtics arena and burning sage to do so. It is very possible that Nike really didn’t have too much of a problem with his statements, or rather it was almost expected to happen at some point since they contracted with a “Wild Card.”
However, if anyone is in any sort of sponsorship, partnership, or otherwise influencer type deal, I would advise them to avoid publicly disparaging the company’s product, at least while the contract is still in effect. Let this be a lesson, there seems to be a happy ending for Irving, but I don’t think the average person would be quite as lucky. Anyone entering into any sort of agreement, especially a sponsorship, partnership, or otherwise influencer deal should be very aware of the terms of the agreement including potential remedies for a breach. Whenever you’re entering into any sort of agreement, in order to understand terms and remedies, I would also advise reaching out to an attorney for review, just to err on the side of caution.
Stephon Burton is a rising 3L at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, PA. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Washington & Jefferson College in 2019. He can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @stephonburton3, Instagram @stephonburton, and LinkedIn