THE LATEST (6/22): Mediation is over! After 5 hours of intense discussion, a settlement is reached. Don't expect a lot of details but Casey and Ryan are reinstated at Brine and will be back in Rochester uniforms next weekend. We are sure a release will come out soon with slightly more detail, but it's over. Casey and Ryan are back, free from Warrior (other than MLL equipment monopoly) and you can now re-read our "Casey and Ryan Join Brine" article with renewed enthusiasm.
It is a philosophical debate of the ages that has never been resolved: What came first, the chicken or the egg? Despite all of the advancements in technology and science we have seen during the last century, we still cannot answer that simple question because nobody in this world was there to witness the event.
However, we are witnessing, first hand, a lacrosse chicken vs. egg debate that determines the value of a player's identity and could very well get out of hand quickly. David Morrow and Warrior have taken aim at Casey and Ryan Powell and have hit them hard. In case you missed it, shortly after getting fired by Warrior after spending years as the company's top spokesmen, the elder Powell brothers joined younger brother Mikey at Brine to assist with Brine's marketing strategy. The move was seen as a major coup for Brine, albeit a logical one.
The following week Morrow and Warrior filed an injunction in court barring Casey and Ryan from working for Brine because of what is essentially a "no-compete" clause in their original contract. The situation was adjudicated quickly in Warrior's favor in a Michigan court and mediation is set for this afternoon with Warrior, Brine, Casey (representing Ryan too) and a slew of lawyers set to attend. Morrow holds all the cards but he can still lose big here.
The results of the mediation and any further litigation resulting will have a major impact on our sport no matter who gets their way in the end. Should the Powells be allowed to work for Brine, even at a cost, licensed like some head design Warrior claims to have invented, chances are that Warrior's status as an equipment superpower will diminish considerably and Dave Morrow knows that. But if Warrior wins and gets everything Morrow wants, two of the best lacrosse players on the planet will stop playing in the MLL, lessening the league's legitimacy substantially. They will also disappear from the face of pop culture lacrosse equipment marketing at a time when they are driving the game's popularity, despite Warrior's claims of full responsibility for the growth of lacrosse. After all, the Powell trio are perhaps the three most marketable and popular figures we have in the game today, and the prospects of 2/3 of the clan being essentially silenced commercially will have an impact on more fans than if say, Warrior went out of business. And that is the reason that Dave Morrow, with every single legal card in his hand, as it looks now, can lose his shirt and become the MC Hammer of lacrosse in much less time than it took for Casey and Ryan's last name to build his company up. He's "Can't Touch This" teetering near the brink of "Wouldn't touch a warrior product with a ten foot pole". The court of public opinion for lacrosse is convening and they already love the Powells. Starting a feud with the most popular family in lacrosse is, at best, horrible marketing. Kids are talking in chat rooms and at summer camps about this issue. And however it is verbalized the debate is "chicken v. egg."
The battle falls along a basic philosophical line: Which came first - the establishment of the name "Powell" as the greatest force in this sport since Paul and Gary Gait walked off the college fields, or Warrior, which then "made the Powell name what it is today"? The fact that David Morrow and Warrior have any question about this is simply scary after their claim to be leading the lacrosse "culture" in recent publications. Get it straight, Dave, the Powell name was tops in this sport long before they arrived at Warrior, it will be long after this case is over and EVERYBODY knows it but the Warrior cult (not short for culture).
Morrow and company have the legal high ground; a contract is a contract. If the Powells signed off on an unreasonable and career ending no-compete clause when they first joined Warrior as na´ve young men, whether they read the legalese or not, it puts them in a difficult position if they blew off their obligations and joined another company. This is not in dispute. But Casey and Ryan didn't just wake up one day, decide they like Brine equipment better (they always did) and jump ship. This is why no-compete clauses exist. Had a Brine rep arrived in Carthage one day, offered the Powells big signing bonuses to walk out of their Warrior commitments, I think we would all agree that Morrow and Warrior would be completely justified in feeling betrayed. STX probably felt that way when Warrior did just that with Mark Millon.
But that is not the case here. Morrow FIRED Ryan and Casey Powell. They terminated a professional relationship with the Powells, stopped paying them, and forced the duo to find other employment. That is exactly what the Powells did. They went elsewhere so they could continue earning a livelihood and paying the bills. The decision to end the relationship between the Powells and Warrior was squarely on the shoulders of David Morrow. End of story. By taking the matter to court, what Morrow and Warrior are saying is that they do not want Ryan and Casey Powell to earn a living in the lacrosse world. They want two of the most popular and influential people to ever pick up a stick to seek employment in a different field. They want the two athletes who helped make Warrior a lacrosse somebody in the first place out of the business completely. And they want the fans to continue to purchase Warrior equipment despite the fact that they are trying to ruin their heroes' lives.
There is a simple fact that David Morrow and Warrior do not understand. The sport is exponentially bigger than Warrior. Despite Morrow and Jake Steinfeld's repeated claims that holding a part-time job playing for Major League Lacrosse in front of 3,000 fans a game is the pinnacle of lacrosse, Casey and Ryan Powell reached immortality, forget notoriety, long before they signed with Warrior. During four years at Syracuse, the Powells played day in and day out in front of three times as many fans as an average MLL games sees. They each quarterbacked their teams to National Championships live on ESPN in front of 40,000 fans during the Memorial Day Weekend event that is truly the pinnacle of our sport. The name Powell became legendary because of what Casey and Ryan did in the orange and blue, wearing #22, and truly solidifying Syracuse's place as the greatest lacrosse program in the modern era. And NOTHING that David Morrow and Warrior are doing in court could ever take that away.
Without the Powells, Warrior is a titanium shell of the company that it was, and the MLL loses the very little luster it has. While there is an incredible array of talent in the league, anybody who has ever seen fans flock to the Powells after games knows full well that in the world of lacrosse, there are stars, and then there are the Powells, who have created their own brand of superstardom just by being themselves (that's my opinion; not the court's). The fact that Warrior is trying to quell the Powell name and keep them out of the public spotlight, after cashing in on it for peanuts (read the legal docs), is nothing short of a slap in the face to the legions of Powell fans out there that idolize Casey and Ryan.
An ad from the one week period the Powells were employed by Brine
My question is, when Warrior decided to sue the Powells, was there some sort of long-term business plan in mind? Did they honestly think that Warrior equipment is so far superior to everybody else that the lacrosse playing public would forget that they are trashing two of the biggest names in the sport despite firing them in the first place and continue to purchase Warrior products? Or does David Morrow think that he and his company are so high and mighty that they simply do not care about the lacrosse world's affection for the Powells, and will slap every Powell fan in the face due to selfishness, greed, and a hunger for power.
When you think about it, this is only the latest slap in the face to lacrosse fans by Morrow and Warrior. First, they disallowed Paul and Gary Gait to play in the inaugural MLL Summer Showcase because the Gaits - who basically created the modern game and subsequent popularity - refused to use Warrior equipment. Then, when an agreement was reached, the MLL made Gary wear another number while Casey was made to wear the number 22 he inherited from Gary while playing on the same team using Casey as a pawn to hurt Gary and STX. Casey could care less what number he had. We asked him. I'll never forget one MLL executive calling the Gaits, "dinosaurs" and claiming it was a young man's game. A few months later, Paul Gait was the MVP of the Long Island Lizards Championship victory over Baltimore. The next year Gary Gait carried the Baltimore Bayhawks to the title and is still one of the best players in the league leading Baltimore to record offensive outputs this season.
Next, Warrior and the MLL disallowed MLL players from participating in the World Championships in Australia despite the fact that Warrior was the official sponsor of Team USA Lacrosse. While Team USA took home the gold, this conflict of interest on Warrior's part only hurt the fans, a fact that became so clear that for the next World Championships, MLL players will be allowed to compete. Add to the mix Warrior's vulgar advertisements in lacrosse publications, use of drug and prostitution innuendo in the marketing and naming of products, and equipment developments such as the "Big Nasty" that would have had harmful effects on our game. It is clear that Warrior is in it to make a quick buck. And they have, pimp-slapping the fans whenever things don't go their way. And while it is David Morrow and Warrior's right to do this because of free enterprise, it is our right as fans of this sport to say that enough is enough and we just won't allow Warrior's attempt at world domination to continue.
And let's not, for even a minute, forget how good the Powells are, right now. All three made the US team this past week. It's hard to calculate how hard that is to achieve, but each had to make the team separately against the best field of players in the world. Great players bowed to them this week and for the most part, gracefully. This is because Casey and Ryan Powell are not only two of the most talented individuals to ever pick up a stick, but they are also two of the greatest ambassadors this sport has ever known. They really are nice guys. You can approach Casey and Ryan on the street, after a game, or at any lacrosse function and they are down to earth, professional, and show the utmost respect for their fans. There is no "high profile" when it comes to any of the Powells. They're just good people who love the sport and don't take their role in it for granted. The images of fast cars and wild women and party time all the time is Warrior constructed marketing and never fit the brothers well. The players all know it and the fans are starting to get it.
Mike Spinner (left) interviews Jake Steinfeld and Dave Morrow at MLL Showcase
Want to know what the Powells are all about? Think of it this way. After lending their name to Dave Morrow and watching him get rich on it, they were cut loose by Morrow (not in person though) and are now being sued by Warrior so they cannot work doing what they love to do. But they haven't publicly retaliated. They've always kept their mouths shut when every manufacturer bad mouthed them and now as their previous employer does so in a public court and privately with retailers, as is their modus operandi. The Powells are not refined by any stretch, but they exude class and they took every bit of it with them when departing Warrior's company leaving an obvious void. I'd be wearing a "Warrior Sucks" T-Shirt every day but the only statement Ryan and Casey have made is that they will not play in the MLL or with "Dave's Ball" until the issue is settled and they are not barred from being gainfully employed in lacrosse. Otherwise, they would be perfectly justified in leaving the league or holding out until the case is over. It would be completely understandable if the Powells refused to support a Warrior-owned league because Warrior is trying to ruin them. Casey says he can't stand putting on the Warrior stuff to play but he would if they stop aggressing against him and his family.
In other words, in the world of Casey and Ryan Powell, the sport comes before the Powell name. In the case of Warrior, the Warrior name comes before the sport because their owner thinks he and his company are bigger than the sport. After all, we all just sucked before titanium. Fortunately, whatever the courts decide, we have our own court and it is called the marketplace. Be sure to get your voice heard there. I only hope that this essential court in the world of lacrosse business renders a verdict that will keep the Powells and those who support them at the top of our sport and sends a message to Morrow and company that they do not own lacrosse and that their stronghanded tactics will not be tolerated anymore.
Do you have an opinion? Send it in and keep it clean and we'll post it in the days to come!
June 22, 2005
All Photos by E-lacrosse Staff and John Strohsacker