A minor controversy has developed at the NFL Combine as a peculiar and possibly shady contract move by Adidas may have robbed a UAB receiver of some well-earned cash. As first reported by ESPN's Darren Rovell, Adidas offered $100,000 to the three fastest 40 yard dash runners in exchange for an endorsement contract, but refused to award the money to UAB wide receiver JJ Nelson despite him running the fastest 40 yard dash at the combine in a blistering 4.28 seconds.
An initial look at the situation makes the Germany-based company's decision not to award Nelson look cut and dry, as Nelson had not already signed an endorsement deal with Adidas before running his 40 yard dash attempt. However, Nelson states that Adidas never approached him about signing an endorsement deal beforehand despite him filling out a waiver form and switching from Nike to Adidas shoes for his run. Therefore, if you believe Nelson, he in essence tried to do everything right, but will still miss out on $100,000 because Adidas never offered him an endorsement deal.
Why would Adidas not award an endorsement contract to one of the fastest players coming out of college? NBC Sports speculates that because of Nelson's relatively low profile coming out of UAB and his tenuous position in making an NFL roster, Adidas may have been hesitant to offer a deal. If that was indeed the case, then it's hard to see Nelson or any other speedster from a smaller school getting a fair shake from Adidas in future contests because of their perceived lack of marketability.
Adidas had previously changed the rules for the $100,000 contest to include the endorsement deal clause this year after Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks won the contest last year and immediately signed with Nike afterwards. However, as noted in the NBC Sports article linked above, the best way for players from smaller schools or with less stellar draft projections to get a fair shake would be to offer the $100,000 and an endorsement deal immediately after their 40 yard dash.
Considering that late round draft picks can and have made themselves vital contributors to NFL teams such as, oh, the current super bowl champions, Adidas could potentially snag diamonds in the rough that could end up being lucrative investments over time and avoid any miscommunications and the negative publicity that could come along with a situation such as Nelson's.