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JLRacing & Boathouse Sports react to USRowing's exclusive Nike deal

Posted on April 08 2017

We have to agree with our big cousin vendors, JL & Boathouse, that USRowing's decision to make Nike the exclusive apparel vendor for all USRowing regattas is not exactly in the spirit of open competition for which the sport of rowing is known. 

As a mom and pop vendor only at this for a few years (and parents of three rowers), we are disappointed that we will no longer be allowed to bring our unique collection of sports bras, trou, onesies and tops with unique inside jokes about your favorite sport to USRowing's regional and national championship regattas. We have to wonder the response of young rowers and their fans when they discover there is only one vendor at these marquis events. At first, the Nike brand will no doubt be a thrill, but we're curious to see if the enthusiasm fades as competitors and spectators discover the sameness of the merchandise at successive races. Time will tell.

Sincerely oars,

Bill & Kerrie Sanders

Here is the post from JLRacing posted verbatim:

Who is afraid of a little competition?

Update on Saturday--the support has been incredible, I have not had time to respond to each of you, but know that you are making a beautiful noise and it matters! 

Friday...I've had such great response since I put our word last night--the site crashed because of the traffic!!! THANK YOU to everyone who is reacting-acting!! 

Imagine a boat race where you were the only one allowed to row.  All the other lanes are empty, except yours.  Would you train as hard?  Would the victory be as sweet? USRowing is emptying the lanes.

The culture of rowing is under attack from the very body whose mission it is to foster it.  Small businesses who have grown with the sport and have helped to grow the sport are being handed the corporate pink slip, because USRowing doesn’t know their constituency, and doesn’t care about the well-being of community.   


What I know…Truth and Rumor

USRowing benefits here—not rowers

What did Nike get?

Why JL matters

What does JL do for me?

But What does JL do for ME?

What would the future look like without…

What can I do?


Here is what I know

USRowing has signed a contract with Nike, which stipulates that no vendor of “competing product” may show at USRowing-hosted events.  This includes Junior and Masters Regionals and Nationals, as well as all trials. Whether we will be welcome at Worlds is still to be seen.  Leaked information (which you should take as leaked and cannot be verified due to confidentiality), is that the amount is $125k per year with option to extend, yearly for 4 years.  I spill these beans because really.  Really?  Now 10 mill over 4 years I could understand…

USRowing benefits, not rowers

USRowing signed for the (very little) money, but interestingly…for the attraction that a big name sponsor engenders with other potential sponsors.  Do we need sponsors to keep our national teams afloat?  Absolutely.  But do we need to do that at the expense of local clubs and venues, and at the risk of a decimated landscape once the juggernaut pulls out?

What did Nike get?

USRowing sold…well you.  The highly educated, professional demographic that is rowing.  They sold the Worlds that are in Florida this year.  They sold logo placement on the chests of the most decorated female rowers in history.  This means their logo on national TV for tens of minutes. The price they paid for these commodities is a fraction of a drop of what they would pay for a one minute commercial on network TV.

Why JL matters

My name is Joline Lorraine Esparza, the J and the L.  I am the face of a commercial enterprise; I make my living off of rowers.  But I do it from the heart, with integrity, with service and with quality and the values that I wear on my sleeve.  We manufacture in the US, using recycled fibers and solar panels—the garments you’ve worn over the years allowed me to pay 100% of my workers’ health insurance since the early 90s.  How many of the companies you buy from can say that?  How many of the garments you wear have continued to do their job for years, if not decades?  I see rowers almost every regatta who still sport a pair of trou with a logo I hand-stitched over 20 years ago. Learn more about us .

What does JL do for me?

JL has supported the rowing community for over 30 years.   JL is the one you call for a jacket donation for your silent auction.  JL is the one who offers support to community programs, with either free kit or highly discounted team wear.  JL rescued national team athletes who begged us to make replica suits in the place of the unwearable ones they were issued.  JL sponsored the US Junior National team for over a decade, supporting them as USRowing continued to pull back support.

But what does JL do for ME?

JL is sponsoring your regatta, your rowing.  Last year we paid the rowing community over $85,000 in vendor fees.  Please listen closely here, and read to the end of this one. This is a truth--sponsorship depends on profit.  If JL profits, we can support the community that supports us.  JL attends over 100 rowing events in the US a year.  Of those events, you may be surprised at how few involve profit.  Everyone knows the obvious ones, but the USRowing properties from which we are now excluded are high on that list.  If we can’t attend those, we can’t attend and pay the vendor fees that help to keep your regattas going.  JL and all the rest of the rowing vendors sponsor your rowing event. Why, you might ask, do you even attend an event if you don’t make $$?  This is how we communicate with our demographic.  This is how we explain about recycled fibers, how we educate the new mom about why we care if their son has a really long torso, and that it matters that our trou don’t ride up.  This is where an athlete can bring a garment that needs a repair, and where we chat with teams about their needs.  Where else can you find a collection of the finest rowing literature, or the latest entrepreneurial stab at a coxing game?  We consider it marketing.  We consider it sponsorship.  We want to know our community and we want them to know us.

What would the future look like without…

Remember Track & Field at the Olympics?  Teams outfitted by the big players all had cookie-cutter uniforms, with color variations.  The family-owned companies that listen to your unique stories, and provide uniforms that express the culture of your school/club/boat may not survive this quadrennial, may not make it past this year.  When a corporate interest is transactional, not personal…you may get technology that eclipses what we can provide, but it will be generic. And imagine a regatta without the dog-and-pony show that is all of us, celebrating what you do, doing what we enjoy.

What can I do?

If this matters to you, please react, please act. And again, please read to the bottom.

  • Share your opinion on your social outlets and ask your contacts to spread the word. Talk with your regatta organizer and tell them you want to preserve a level playing field for all competitors!
  • Direct people to this page http://www.jlracing.com/page.viva_competition.html
  • Write actual, physical letters or post cards to USRowing Board of Directors.   Addresses are listed at the bottom of the page.
  • Contact the board members at USRowing and let them know it matters. Click here to go to USRowing. I’ve also listed them at the bottom of the page
  • Talk to me
    • It helps my heart to know that others understand and appreciate what we do.  It helps to know that I am not alone, or crazy to feel this way.  My email is jle@jlracing(dot)com
  • Follow us on social media—every engagement boosts our exposure and makes us feel better
  • Tag us in your posts—seeing your personal expression of what JL means to you is priceless to us
  • Download the free JL Designer app for iOS devices, available on the app store--play with it, and review it!  Reviews are key.
Shop Local--I have never been a hard sell. But if you believe in what I do and the way I do it, click here to see how shopping local will help while we adjust to what may be a new reality.

Stay connected.  We are part of a whole.  Read up at row2k.comWatch for our newsletters.  When you do see us at regattas stop by.  

Thanks for your support!

Joline and the JL team.

















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