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No More Nice Kawhi: Leonard files lawsuit against Nike

The Raptors’ superstar alleges Nike copyrighted his Klaw logo without his consent, and now he wants it back.

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NBA Finals 2019: Toronto Raptors Kawhi Leonard Files Lawsuit Against Nike over Klaw Logo Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard has filed a lawsuit against Nike, alleging the shoe manufacturer copyrighted his Klaw logo — that he claims to have designed himself — without his consent.

There are layers upon layers to this story, so let’s try and break them down as succinctly as possible:

  • Sometime after the 2011 NBA Draft, according to the court documents, Kawhi created his Klaw logo.
  • Sometime after that — early in Leonard’s Spurs career — he signed an endorsement deal with Nike.
  • As part of that deal, Leonard — again according to the lawsuit — “allowed” Nike to use the logo on Nike products.
  • In May 2017, Nike copyrighted the logo, claiming ownership of it — without notifying Leonard.
  • Leonard’s Nike deal expired sometime last season; contract talks broke down in 2018, with Nike / Jordan Brand allegedly offering a paltry 4-year, $22 million deal that Leonard rejected.
  • Leonard signed a new endorsement deal with New Balance in November 2018.

Here’s where we get into some fun details.

That fine seemed excessive in light of the innocuous TV comments, but in all likelihood, was the result of the Clippers’ cumulative efforts this season to woo Leonard — which has included multiple Clippers staffers “scouting” Leonard at games and Lawrence Frank stalking Leonard in the bowels of various arenas like a stray cat.

  • Then, finally, on June 3, Leonard filed suit to prevent Nike from using the logo and to reacquire all rights to it.


Now, if you’ve been a Raptors fan long enough, the idea of a lawsuit being filed in the middle of a playoff series may seem familiar. It was 19 years ago that Butch Carter, then the Raptors coach, filed a $5 million lawsuit against New York Knicks centre Marcus Camby for comments Camby made, calling Carter a liar among other things.

Camby, of course, was a former Raptor. And the Raptors and Knicks were playing each other in a playoff series at the time. It’s very nearly unbelievable but I assure you, this actually happened.

So, while the Raptors would surely have preferred Leonard’s lawsuit wait until after the Finals, it’s hardly as much of a distraction as that Carter-Camby clusterf--k was.

Meanwhile, you may have heard some other news yesterday, regarding Leonard and some real estate transactions going on about town. Has Kawhi Leonard purchased a new Toronto home?

As that report indicates, there’s no real confirmation of anything at this point, so take this with the proverbial grain of salt. But with the reports that have floated lately about Kawhi considering re-signing here in Toronto on a short-term deal, all of this is lending credence to the “he stay” movement.

So here we are. Leonard is a Raptor, the Raptors are in the NBA Finals, New Balance has Kawhi’s endorsement, Nike has Kawhi’s logo, Leonard wants it back and is willing to go to court for it. Meanwhile there are New Balance “King of the North” crowns all over Toronto, the city where Kawhi allegedly is buying up land like Lex Luthor, and the Clippers... are still thirsty as all heck.

It’s gonna be a fun summer.