With summer winding down, professional lacrosse is in full swing as teams are gearing up for the playoffs. The professional league that has garnered the most fan attention and excitement is the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). The PLL is a start-up professional lacrosse league that was founded by lacrosse superstar Paul Rabil in October of 2018. The league is unique in that instead of having teams based on cities, the league operates a tour-based model where each team plays against each other in a different city every week. Rabil was able to secure meaningful investments from The Chernin Group and Blum Capital along with a deal with NBC to broadcast their games each week. This cash means that players are paid a full-time salary — groundbreaking in professional lacrosse leagues.
The second half of the season is underway as the league just wrapped up its all-star game in Los Angeles. Last week, the league was on a bye week but news broke that had the lacrosse community fired up.
Bloomberg News reported that New Balance, who owns the lacrosse retailer Warrior Lacrosse, had terminated its sponsorship with arguably the most famous lacrosse player in my generation: Paul Rabil. New Balance said that Rabil breached his contract by wearing Adidas uniforms and other apparel during PLL practice and games.
There’s a lot more to why New Balance dropped Rabil than wearing Adidas. New Balance is one of the lead sponsors for Major League Lacrosse (MLL) which is another professional league that has been around since the early 2000s. New Balance founder and chairman Jim Davis recently owned four teams in the MLL and has kept many teams in the league afloat with New Balance cash.
Davis and New Balance are pissed at Rabil because he left their league, started the PLL and took 140 of their players with him including stars like midfielder Tom Schreiber and face-off man Trevor Baptiste. Rabil’s so-called “breach of contract” is complete BS and New Balance saw the opportunity to be petty, and they did. Kawhi Leonard is a New Balance athlete who wore a Nike jersey throughout the season because that’s who sponsors the NBA. New Balance has numerous other athletes playing in the PLL who wear as much Adidas as Rabil did and they didn’t cancel their sponsorships.
Looks it’s obvious why New Balance is angry, but they’re making an emotional and immature decision instead of a business one. You can be pissed all you want that Rabil cucked your league but you have to look at the landscape of professional lacrosse and realize that the PLL is the future and the MLL is dying. The MLL has been around for 20 years and pays its players an average salary of $8,000. The PLL provides its players with an increased wage of $35,000 a year giving them the chance to be full-time professional lacrosse players instead of having to work a second job such as an employee at a commercial real estate firm like many MLL players. Rabil has blazed the trail for players to be full-time professional lacrosse players, making him a true pioneer for the sport. I really can’t think of a worse PR move than dropping the most famous lacrosse player in the world just because your feelings are hurt.