NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A new agreement between Major League Baseball and Nike is threatening to put an iconic shopping district in the Bronx out of business. Now, the Yankees are going to bat for them.
Every time baseball fever grips Yankee Stadium, the excitement expands to nearby River Avenue and the small businesses selling official jerseys, t-shirts, and other souvenirs.
Close to ten Mom-and-Pop shops, some there for decades, all have the rights to sell Yankees merchandise.
At the end of the year however, they’re out of that game.
MLB has entered into a new deal that has Nike handling merchandise, putting more of an emphasis on direct to customer mail order instead of the local sporting goods store.
Flagship stores and some chains are included in the new deal, but not the little shops.
Losing that merchandise represents about 80 percent of the business at Ballpark Sports Shop, where Yousef Abbadi is manager.
“If we can’t get the jerseys, all the businesses are going to close down. This area is going to become a ghost town,” Abbadi said.
Some of the retailers say they were told they are not the right fit for selling the Nike merchandise.
“It’s Nike what can you do?” the manager added.
They demand to know from Nike why they are excluded.
After weeks of silence, an email response to community leaders from a Nike sales director made it sound like a done deal.
“Unfortunately, these retailers are not part of Nike licensed business development strategy at this time,” Judy Stobbe, Nike’s Territory Licensed Category Sales Director said.
“They want to know why they are being excluded from Nikes retail strategy,” CBS2’s Dave Carlin said, demanding answers from the company.
CBS2 left messages for Nike officials when calls went to voicemail and also sent emails. Those messages were not returned.
CBS2 then went to the Yankees and learned the organization is siding with the small business owners.
Pushing for a revised deal, the club says longtime loyalty has value that Nike must preserve.
New York City councilmembers and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. are using a letter writing campaign to put additional pressure on Nike.
“It’s unfair the way the contract is written. Now we’re going to continue to fight with them,” Diaz said.
Some Bronx neighbors were not feeling confident Nike will be persuaded.
“A billion-dollar company is going to do what they want to do, when they want to do it and you can’t force them,” cafe owner Joseph Michilis said.
The 10-year deal – which could wipe out the iconic neighborhood backdrop of baseball in the Bronx – is set to take effect at the end of this year.