* Adidas’ Reebok unit blocked from unauthorized sales
* Nike says it, not Reebok, has rights to Tebow apparel
* Reebok expects to refute Nike claims, end sales ban
By Jonathan Stempel
March 29 (Reuters) - Nike Inc has won a court order blocking rival Reebok International Ltd from selling New York Jets apparel bearing the name of the popular quarterback Tim Tebow, in a battle over licensing rights.
The order issued late on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel prevents Reebok from manufacturing, selling and shipping the alleged unauthorized apparel for the National Football League team and bearing Tebow’s name.
It also requires Reebok to offer to buy back such apparel from retailers and recall the products from shipping channels. The Denver Broncos traded Tebow to the Jets on March 21.
Castel, however, rejected Nike’s demand that Reebok destroy any unauthorized Tebow products. The judge set an April 4 hearing to discuss whether the ban should be extended. Nike filed the lawsuit on Tuesday.
Reebok is a unit of Germany’s Adidas AG.
Daniel Sarro, a Reebok spokesman, said the company plans to refute Nike’s contentions at the hearing, “which should enable the court to change its view.”
Paul Sarkozi, a lawyer for Nike, declined to comment. Nike spokeswoman Kellie Leonard did not immediately return a telephone call seeking a comment.
According to the complaint, on April 1, Nike will begin an exclusive five-year contract with the NFL to sell uniforms and related apparel for all 32 teams.
Nike also said Reebok has no current agreement to sell Tebow-related Jets products and that a Reebok merchandising license with the NFL players union expired prior to this month.
It accused Reebok of trying to capitalize on “short-lived intense consumer appetite for such products,” and selling products bearing Tebow’s name without the player’s consent.
Tebow’s No. 15 Broncos uniform had been among the NFL’s top-selling jerseys before his trade to the Jets.
Apparel sales for a popular player who changes teams customarily soar in the first few days after the change.
Nike’s lawsuit does not concern Broncos products bearing Tebow’s name and those made before March 1.
A January poll by Walt Disney Co’s ESPN rated Tebow the No. 1 favorite active professional athlete in the United States.
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, who played for the University of Florida, is also an evangelical Christian who prays on the football field in a pose known as “Tebowing.”
He left the Broncos after they signed star quarterback Peyton Manning, who had played for the Indianapolis Colts.
The case is Nike Inc et al v Reebok International Ltd, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-02275.