Louisville Cardinals player Kevin Ware (right) and head coach Rick Pitino attend a press conference at the KFC Yum! Center practice facility on Wednesday.
(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA - A spokesperson for adidas told USA TODAY Sports that the company has stopped selling t-shirts inspired by Louisville guard Kevin Ware's No. 5 due to a "use of logo issue."
"The shirt is not currently for sale," the spokesperson, Madeline Breskin, wrote in an e-mail.
Earlier this week, adidas was advertising shirts for $24.99 through Louisville's Web site that read "Ri5e To The Occasion," which was supposed to pay tribute to Ware, who suffered a gruesome open fracture to his right tibia last Sunday during the Midwest Regional final. Ware has subsequently become a national sensation, appearing on the David Letterman Show on Thursday before traveling to Atlanta for the Final Four.
Ware was not made available to the media on Friday due to fatigue, according to Louisville spokesman Kenny Klein.
Initially, Louisville said it had waived any traditional royalties for sales of the t-shirt and that instead adidas would make contributions to the university's scholarship fund.
But questions have subsequently arisen about the t-shirt, both in the appearance of a shoe company profiting off Ware's injury and whether it might be illegal since Louisville acknowledged that the No. 5 represents Ware. NCAA rules prohibit schools from selling merchandise that references a specific player but have traditionally been able to sell shirts and jerseys with numbers under the argument that it could represent any player who has worn that number.
However, Louisville associate athletic director Brent Seebohm told local television station WDRB on Thursday that the shirt was created at the school's request "as a respectful tribute to honor Kevin within NCAA trademark apparel parameters, and allow fans to rally around the team."
Breskin did not respond to an e-mail asking for clarification on what the specific problem was with the t-shirt and how many adidas had already sold before pulling it off the virtual shelves.
The NCAA is currently facing a potential landmark lawsuit brought by former UCLA player Ed O'Bannon, who is arguing that the NCAA and EA Sports have used his image and likeness without permission for commercial purposes. If the suit is granted class-action status, it would represent the biggest legal threat in history to college athletics' current economic model.
Asked what he thought about the fact that a shoe company and a university could generate revenue off Ware's injury while the player gets nothing, Louisville point guard Peyton Siva said: "I don't think it's right."
"For him to get the notoriety, I think it's awesome," Siva said. "But as far as profits and everything, it kind of sucks, him being in college that he can't really see any of it. Hey, they give our school a lot of money so in the end it works out for both."
Guard Russ Smith initially cited the fact that college athletes get a free education and said it probably wasn't his place to comment. But when reminded that the Final Four offered him the biggest stage possible to stand up for the interests of college athletes, Smith acknowledged the issue was worth discussing.
"It definitely raises an eyebrow," Smith said. "I'll definitely go that far with it, and Kevin's my friend. I take business classes, and I know the kind of route that's going, but it definitely raises an eyebrow and as a friend of Kevin I only wish the best for him. I hope they'll be able to take care of him one day for doing something like that."
Forward Chane Behanan, who is Ware's closest friend on the team, said Ware "hasn't complained about it." Asked if it was exploitive, Behanan responded: "It is, but then again you have to look at it as he's still a college athlete."
Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports