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Lawrence school district plans switch from Adidas to Nike; Jock’s Nitch wants to call timeout

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Update, 7:35 p.m. Monday, June 27:

Lawrence school board members approved this switch without discussion during their Monday meeting.

Original article:

Lawrence students and families that have purchased athletic gear from Adidas through Jock’s Nitch for years are being asked to switch to Nike and its distributor BSN Sports as suppliers — but it’s not clear why.

The Lawrence school board agenda indicates it’s because Adidas no longer carries the crimson shade of red that matches Lawrence High School’s color. But that doesn’t seem to be the entire story.

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Phil Minton, owner of Jock’s Nitch, says the suggestion that Adidas no longer has the correct shade of red is “totally bogus. … We have those colors, Adidas has these colors. I just don’t know where this misinformation is coming from.”

And Jock’s Nitch General Manager Ryan Owens says, “Whether it’s the football’s burgundy color or the true red that other sports wear — burgundy has always been the tradition (for football) — Adidas still carries it.”

But the item is on the school board’s Monday consent agenda, meaning it will likely be approved without discussion along with a list of other routine items, unless a board member or the superintendent asks to pull it for discussion. 

District spokesperson Julie Boyle said additional details factored into the board recommendation, including lower costs and rebates through the usage of a nonprofit purchasing cooperative. 

The agenda item notes various discounts and rebates that Nike/BSN would offer the district during a five-year purchasing agreement that is renewable annually, but it does not include costs to compare what the district currently pays to what it would pay under the agreement. 

Boyle added that “BSN carries LHS’ official color, crimson. Adidas does not.”

Minton said the administrative team met with him on Monday morning to discuss the issues. 

“I told them we have the same (Pantone Matching System) color,” he said. “But I think someone just wants to switch to Nike so they can say ‘I got the Nike switch done’ and put their stamp on the district. … Whoever that is … is just trying to railroad this agenda through.”

Minton added that he hopes the administration tables their recommendation so Jock’s Nitch can present to the board and team why the district should stick with them. He added that he knew contract negotiations over the uniform contract had been coming up, but he complained about a lack of communication between the district and his store.

“They haven’t given us a chance to even present our pitch,” he said. “They haven’t given us the opportunity to present with Adidas and Jock’s Nitch representing. We’ve been trying for about three months to present our pitch.”

He said that before Monday, his team had met with Free State Athletic Director Amanda Faunce and Lawrence High Athletic Director Mike Gillman separately, “but we haven’t had everybody together to talk.”

The current agreement between the local store, Adidas and Lawrence Public Schools expires on Thursday, after roughly eight years. 

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“We’re local, we’ve been in Lawrence since 1989,” Minton said. “We treat USD (497) like royalty; they’re our biggest high school account. For BSN and Nike, 497 is just another account.”

If the change is approved Monday, the two high schools will slowly phase out Adidas jerseys over the next five years. For the upcoming school year, LHS and FSHS baseball, softball, unified bowling and volleyball teams are slated to receive new Nike uniforms. 

It’s not clear whether BSN Sports, Nike’s third-party distributor that works directly with high schools across the country, will provide a service that allows LHS and FSHS families to purchase Nike apparel, how easy its access would be compared to Jock’s Nitch or what discounts the families would receive.

“This could be a big blow to our business. Those sales keep our doors open,” Minton said when speaking about the approximate 30% of Jock’s Nitch sales that USD 497 accounts for.

The school board’s work session will begin at 5 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 27 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Meetings are open to the public and livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel. Full meeting agendas are available at this link. See more coverage ahead of Monday’s meeting at this link.

To give public comment virtually during the board meeting, email PublicComment@usd497.org by 6 p.m. on the day of the meeting to sign up to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing.

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Jack Ritter (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student-journalist at Lawrence High School currently serving as the editor-in-chief for The Budget Online.

You can view more of his work for The Budget Online here. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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