Last week Bode Miller, the 38 year old former US ski racer, announced that he has sued his former sponsor, Head Skis. For some context, Miller is the most winning male American alpine ski racer of all time. He’s won World Cup events in slalom, GS, Super-G, downhill and combined. He’s also won an overall World Cup title, a feat which is probably as incredible, if not more so than his six Olympic medals.
His lawsuit announcement came along with announcement that he was planning to return to professional ski racing for the 2016 – 2017 season. The first World Cup race of the season is October 23 in Beaver Creek. Miller is already the oldest Olympic Alpine medalist. If he returns to the World Cup, he will be one of the oldest skiers competing on the circuit.
Miller’s trouble started after a season ending crash in 2015 at Beaver Creek. He retired from racing at that point and terminated his relationship with Head. According to Miller’s lawsuit, the agreement terminating his contract with Head contained a covenant that Miller would not return to professional competition on the World Cup for two years – unless he competes on Head Skis. Miller has since signed on with Bomber Skis and now wishes to return to competition on Bomber.
Miller has argued that the covenant violates the California business and professional code that prohibits agreements that would prevent anyone from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business.
It will be interesting to see where this goes. I don’t know how the case law in California defines the perimeters of the restrictions on professions and trade, but from what it sounds like, Miller’s team has a tough road ahead to overturn the contract. I’d expect Head to argue the contract is enforceable because Miller isn’t actually restricted from racing, he’s just restricted in what skis he uses.
Head Skis issued a statement welcoming Miller back to racing – so long as he raced on Head Skis.
I certainly hope that Miller is able to ski this year – whether he’s on Head or Bomber – he’s a really amazing skier to watch.