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After filing suit against Under Armour, UCLA inks athlete uniform deal with Nike

UCLA Athletics, which sued Under Armour after the Baltimore brand backed out of a record $280 million contract to outfit athletes, has signed a six-year deal with Nike.

UCLA announced plans Tuesday to make Jordan Brand and Nike the Bruins’ official footwear, apparel and equipment outfitter starting in July. Nike will supply uniforms to 22 of the university’s 25 varsity athletic teams, while Jordan Brand will outfit the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams with “Jumpman” products.

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The university’s breach of contract lawsuit against Under Armour, filed in September in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks at least $200 million in damages. The complaint accuses the sports brand of embellishing its financial performance to get the contracts, then breaching the agreement by failing to deliver its product and make scheduled payments.

Under Armour announced plans to end the UCLA deal in June as the sports apparel maker struggled with losses and coronavirus-related store shutdowns. The brand still had more than $200 million left to be paid on a 15-year contract it agreed to in 2016. The deal had been one of Under Armour’s most aggressive efforts to boost its brand through an endorsement.

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UCLA’s new deal with Nike won’t mean an end to the dispute with Under Armour, the university said. A UCLA spokeswoman said Tuesday the school plans to continue to pursue a “just outcome.”

“Under Armour didn’t just under-perform, but in fact failed to honor its commitment to our student-athletes,” said Mary Osako, UCLA’s vice chancellor of strategic communications, said in a statement Tuesday. “Our decision to team up with top innovators Nike and Jordan Brand does not make right Under Armour’s wrong.”

Under Armour did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

In breach of contract or other lawsuits, plaintiffs claiming damages typically must take steps by law to mitigate the damages, such as by finding a new athlete uniform supplier in the UCLA’s case. The Nike deal then could be taken into consideration by a court determining damages.

In October, Under Armour sought to strike portions of UCLA’s lawsuit and argued for dismissal, saying there is no legal basis for the lawsuit. The company said in a court filing it did not breach the contract by terminating the deal amid the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting disruption to college sports.

“COVID-19 upended this deal,” the athletic apparel maker said in response to UCLA’s lawsuit.

Under Armour argued that no liability can exist when a contract ends due to a “Force Majeure Event,” or catastrophic event that prevents performance, such as a national emergency. If such an event lasts for more than 100 days, the agreement allows for termination by either party, Under Armour said.

During the pandemic, Under Armour has looked to trim expenses and renegotiate athlete endorsers’ contracts. Last month, the University of Cincinnati said Under Armour will end its $50 million sponsorship with the school but will continue to supply products to the university through June 2024.

In signing with Nike, UCLA said it “sought to work with the best in the world; that is Nike and Jordan Brand,” said Martin Jarmond, UCLA’s athletics director, in a statement.

“Going into this process, our top priority was to secure the best quality and most innovative products to help our student-athletes and coaches compete for championships,” Jarmond said.

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