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Report: Oakley sues Rory McIlroy and Nike over breach of contract

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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Rory McIlroy — Getty Images

A lot has been going right on the course for Rory McIlroy over the last six months: He currently holds the No. 1 ranking, won the PGA Tour and European Tour money titles, picked up an eight-shot win at the PGA Championship, and amassed more than $14 million in tournament prize money this season.

The 23-year-old looks unbeatable on the course. But off it? Well, it's not exactly smooth sailing — at least when it comes to the endorsement department. According to an ESPN story, McIlroy, who reportedly signed a mega-deal with Nike Golf for at least $200 million, is being sued by apparel-maker Oakley for breach of contract.

From the ESPN.com report:

According to a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., Oakley tried to use its "right of first refusal" to match the Nike offer, but McIlroy and his agent, Conor Ridge, ignored the counteroffer, thereby breaching the Oakley-McIlroy contract.

Oakley claims in its lawsuit that its contractual rights for McIlroy's endorsements of its eyewear and performance apparel would be 30 percent of the Nike package. If the reports in European golf publications of a $200 million deal with Nike are accurate, then Oakley offered about $60 million to continue its deal with McIlroy. No one involved in the dispute will confirm the magnitude of the Nike offer, and it is described in the court papers only as an offer of "$_M."

While McIlroy's camp confirmed the No. 1-ranked player wouldn't be re-upping with Titleist, there was no mention of how a new deal with Nike would change his current status with Oakley. If McIlroy is indeed making $200 million as reports have suggested for the last month-plus, then you'd have to assume the deal was not only clubs, but apparel as well.

Oakley's now claiming the damage McIlroy caused the company by refusing to renew is "irreparable" and entitles Oakley to an injunction that would stop Nike and McIlroy from finalizing the deal. Oakley's also claiming that the company spent $300,000 for a photo shoot of products McIlroy would've been wearing in 2013.

So yeah, it looks like Oakley means business with this lawsuit. Will it lead to McIlroy and Nike coming together? It's difficult to say at this point, but considering the money Nike is going to invest in making McIlroy the face of the company for the future, there's no way the Swoosh is going to back off.

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