Gary Reed's shoe contract near the end

Gary Reed's more than five year partnership with Nike Canada may come to an end because of financial disagreements.

Ever since Gary Reed first took his place amongst the world’s elite 800-metre runners five years ago, he’s been sponsored by Nike Canada. That relationship could come to a crashing halt at the end of the year.

A year ago Reed, now 26, came within one one-hundredth of a second of winning the IAAF world championships in his specialty event. The silver medal he won that day is knocking around his Victoria, B.C., apartment.  

Nike Canada appeared eager to sign him to a contract extension after the current deal expires on December 31st, 2008. They sent their marketing manager to Osaka, Japan to watch him perform. They veritably courted him then put a contract on the table that he and his agents at Total Sports Management simply could not accept.

"I am still talking with Nike Canada," says Chris Layne of the Johnson City, Tenn., based agency, "We believe it’s not dead in water. We believe Gary is deserving of a certain figure.  Nike is shopping for the best deal and we are shopping for the best deal."

While Layne will not comment on the figures involved, he admits that the relationship has been positive for both sides since the beginning. The problem he sees is that Nike Canada can’t afford Reed and their two other premium track and field athletes - Tyler Christopher and Perdita Felicien.

Paul Doyle of Doyle Management represents Christopher and scores of other Olympic athletes including world 100m record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica. Although he is not privy to the details of this particular negotiation he has much experience in the area.

"A lot of factors go into it," he explains. "The shoe companies will look at the event in question. The shot put versus the 100m for example, there's no comparison. The 100m contract will be worth 10 times the amount a shot putter would get."

"Then they will look at the age of the athlete. How old is Gary? 26? Yes, he is a silver medalist and ranked second in the world but will he be second the next couple of years? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to say."

Asked what kind of money a non-Canadian might expect from one of the major athletic shoe companies if he were a world championship silver medallist in the 800m, Doyle thinks for a moment.

"They will weigh the countries also. A Kenyan winning a silver medal is probably worth $50,000 a year (all figures U.S.)" he declares, "An American silver medal in the 800m might be worth $200,000 a year. A Canadian? Somewhere in between."

Other Canadian middle distance runners such as Kevin Sullivan and Nathan Brannenhave reportedly signed six-figure shoe contracts (paid out over several years) but the one constant has been they attended U.S. universities and were in the American spotlight. Their deals were negotiated with U.S. companies as opposed to subsidiaries like Nike Canada. Reed moved to Victoria to become a full time athlete and has put university studies on hold.

"If you take a young man who didn't compete in the U.S. collegiate system and take one who did," Layne says, "and let’s say three years down the road you compare their contracts, you can see a difference of 60-80 per cent."

"That hurt Gary from the gate. If he had come out of the NCAA system he would have done well. But he has done everything to earn the kind of contract compared to anyone in the world. That’s what we are trying to put together."

Layne says they are not concerned about the stalemate and neither has talked with any other shoe company — because Gary is under contract. But he admits to having had frank discussions with Nike Canada about Reed’s future. It appears that it may take the involvement of Nike’s Global headquarters in Portland, Oregon to support Nike Canada if they want to get the deal done.

"I think it would be in Nike’s best interests to lock him in for four years," he concludes. "If that is not going to happen, if a shoe company is not going to sit down and renegotiate and work with us to reach an agreement, then you certainly have to take the athlete to the open market when the contract runs out."

While the folks at Total Sports Management sort out the financial arrangements, Reed continues his buildup to Beijing unfazed about the whole affair.