The rivalry between Nike and Under Armour is hitting the streets.
In a bizarre and delightful series of events, the City of Portland is trying to collect more than $250 from a former transportation worker, after he decorated a road in front of Under Armour's new Southwest Barbur outpost with a Nike swoosh on his last day of work.
According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, on Friday, July 28, now-retired traffic crew leader Kirk Kennedy fashioned a swoosh out of thermoplastic—a moldable material the bureau uses to install things like sharrows and bike lane markers on the road. Kennedy then used a blow torch to fuse the subversive swoosh onto a roadway in front of Under Armour's facility at 2815 SW Barbur, as co-workers looked on.
Under Armour phoned a city parks employee to complain, staffers said but the swoosh apparently remained—mocking the Baltimore-based company—until the following Monday.
Update: Under Armour says it's not sure where we heard it "complained" to the city. "We got a good laugh out of the gesture although we appreciate the severity of the matter from PDOT’s perspective," spokesperson Dean Stoyer says. "As far as we are concerned the issue is for PDOT to manage with the perpetrator."
Original post: Upon arriving for work Monday morning, Kennedy's co-workers reported his last, glorious act as a public servant, says PBOT spokesperson John Brady. The swoosh was removed before 7:30 am.
Brady insists no one bothered to take a picture of the swoosh, which is frankly tough to believe.
The incident occurred in Kennedy's "last hour of his last day of work before retirement after 32 years with the City," Brady says, but that's not stopping officials from trying to collect. Along with a letter that went out today, Senior Deputy City Attorney Heidi Brown sent an invoice for $266.16 for the "vandalism." That invoice includes costs of labor for a traffic crew leader and utility worker (1.5 hours a piece), along with nearly $9 for the use of a city pick-up truck.
"The City received information that on your last day of work, you installed a Nike swoosh on the street at the Under Armour location on SW Barbur Blvd." Brown writes. "We attempted to contact you, but have not yet heard back. You are welcome to provide any information you believe is relevant to this matter. Based on the information we have at this time, it appears you did in fact paint the swoosh."
Brown then directs Kennedy to pay the money by August 14, or set up a payment plan. "If you fail to do either, then the City will have no choice but to pursue all legal recourse," she writes.
Asked about Kennedy's potential motives, Brady refuses to speculate.
"From our standpoint, the motive is almost beside the point," he says. "This is something that went beyond the pale and never should have happened in the first place." He cannot say how large the swoosh was.
We've reached out to Under Armour for comment. The city says it's apologized for the incident, and that it "investigated how the other members of the crew responded and have determined that they took appropriate steps, including informing Kennedy that his actions were inappropriate and informing a supervisor about the incident as soon as they were able."
The Mercury hasn't been able to reach Kennedy.
His act, by the way, is merely the latest and most bizarre chapter in the jockeying between Nike and Under Armour since the latter established a presence in town. In 2015, Willamette Week reported that Under Armour pressed to get a Nike swoosh removed from a city park, as part of a deal to pay for renovations.