PORTLAND, Ore. -- Two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds sat in federal court Thursday with a team of lawyers. He listened as they debated the finer points of the federal antitrust law with counterparts from the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The USOC asked Judge Michael McShane to dismiss Symmonds' lawsuit against them. They argue that the USOC has immunity because of the rights granted to the organization by Congress.
But Symmonds and his team pushed back. His suit asks the judge to force the USOC to allow track and field athletes to get their own sponsors and display the sponsor logo on their jersey as they compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials July 1.
Symmonds and his coach own a performance gum company called Run Gum. They say they want to sponsor athletes and argued that the USOC should not be allowed to decide what goes on the jerseys of athletes.
“This is important for our business because we are being denied the rights that one tiny sector of the market is afforded. And that, in our opinion, violates U.S. antitrust law,” Symmonds said.
Lawyers for the Olympic committee said Congress gave the committee the right to offer exclusive deals to sponsors so it could make enough money to fund the Olympic team. It also protected the USOC against the kinds of lawsuits Symmonds was bringing forward.
Symmonds' lawyers disagreed.
A bigger issue is money for track and field athletes. As one of the best in the nation, Symmonds wants to make it easier for future athletes to make money from any sponsor they choose. He said that means being able to sell sponsorship logos that will be worn on the jerseys of athletes during competition at the Olympic Trials.
“In multiple conversations with sponsors when I tell them I’m not allowed to advertise during the Olympic Trials anywhere on my body or on my uniform, the conversation ceases immediately,” Symmonds said.
A spokesman for the USOC declined to comment after the hearing because the case is still pending.
Judge Michael McShane is expected to decide whether to let the lawsuit move forward in the next two weeks.