Madison Keys not allowed to wear stuck-on logo on shoulder

August 30, 2016, 3:20 AM

— -- American tennis player Madison Keys, the No. 8 seed in the US Open, had the honor of playing the late opening-night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night, but she came onto the court without her most recently inked sponsor.

Keys this week signed a deal with Orangetheory Fitness. As part of the contract, the company had the right to have its logo on Keys.

One challenge: Keys wears a sleeveless top and has a deal with Nike that doesn't allow her to put a logo anywhere else.

So her agent Max Eisenbud's solution was to offer the company a temporary tattoo on Keys' skin, which the United States Tennis Association quickly vetoed.?Eisenbud said that Nike officials have indicated to him they wouldn't object to Keys wearing another logo on her skin.

"It is against Grand Slam rules to have signage on the body, and we're not going to let fashion get in the way of that," USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.

While the Orangetheory Fitness logo conforms to the Grand Slam logo rules of not exceeding 3 square inches, the rule says that players who don't have sleeves have to put sponsoring logos on the garment's front and that "no identification shall be permitted on a player."

Keys wore the logo on her left shoulder to Kids Day on Saturday, but on Sunday, after a conversation Eisenbud said he had with the USTA, Keys decided not to walk out with it on Monday night.

"It's crazy," Eisenbud said. "These Grand Slams are making insane money, only sharing about 10 percent of revenue with these independent contractors."

Eisenbud said that although he backed down to the USTA for this year, he isn't giving up the fight.

"We were not asking for Madison to be able to wear more logos than other players," Eisenbud said. "We were not asking for this logo to be larger than others. We were just asking for Madison, who like all players is an independent contractor, to be able to wear a logo of a sponsor on her skin as she plays on a court with more than 30 other logos that the USTA makes money on."

Scott Breault, Orangetheory Fitness marketing director, was more reserved about the decision:

"We support Madison, we appreciate her passion for Orangetheory Fitness, and we respect the decision of the USTA."

While prize money for the men and women at the US Open has been equal since 1973, the longest of the Grand Slam events to do so, Eisenbud said his female clients, including Maria Sharapova, are at a disadvantage in the sponsorship game. Eisenbud said that roughly 95 percent of the women on tour go sleeveless, so they generally can't have the exact logo that men have in the exact place on their sleeves.

Corporate tattoos are no stranger to the sports landscape.

Fifteen years ago, a marketer went to Pistons power forward Rasheed Wallace with a deal from a candy company to tattoo its logo on his body. Wallace didn't do it, but the league put in place rules that banned a future offer from being consummated.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile CEO John Legere bought a temporary tattoo for the 2016 track season on runner Nick Symmonds for $21,800. Symmonds has worn temporary tattoos on his body to bring awareness to the plight of runners who are restricted as to what logos they can have when they compete. Due to rules, it's not clear if Symmonds will be able to even sport the T-Mobile logo without covering it.

The only sport in which temporary tattoos have been universally accepted and paid for is beach volleyball. Men's player Casey Patterson has played with up to five logos on his arms during matches.

As sponsor patches start to become a norm in team sports, the money teams get are split with players per the collective bargaining agreement. Starting next season, NBA players will get paid 50 percent of the money that teams make for selling a new corporate sponsor patch on jerseys.

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