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Rogatkin v. Raleigh Am., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 24, 2014

NICHOLI ROGATKIN, Minor by His Father and Next Friend, VLADMIR ROGATKIN [1]
v.
RALEIGH AMERICA INC./DIAMONDBACK BMX, and JOHN DOES 1-8

Page 295

For Nicholi Rogatkin, Plaintiff: Stephen J. Atkins, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Atkins & Goulet LLC, Nashua, NH; Shane D. Goulet, Atlas Tack Corporation, Boston, MA.

For Raleigh America, Inc./Diamondback BMX, Defendant: Patrick M. Curran, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Nicole S. Corvini, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, Boston, MA.

Page 296

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT RALEIGH AMERICA, INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Richard G. Stearns, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Nicholi Rogatkin, a professional freestyle BMX (bicycle motocross) rider, alleges that defendant Raleigh America, Inc., a bicycle manufacturer and the sponsor of the Diamondback BMX Team, unfairly exploited his youth and inexperience during his 5-year stint as a rider for Team Diamondback. Discovery having been completed, Raleigh moves for summary judgment on all seven counts of the Amended Complaint. For the reasons stated, the motion will be allowed.

BACKGROUND[2]

Rogatkin became an accomplished BMX rider at an early age. In 2007, at age 11, Rogatkin joined Team Diamondback. At the time of his enlistment, Rogatkin and Raleigh did not enter into any written agreement, nor did Rogatkin request or receive any monetary compensation from Raleigh.

While competing for Team Diamondback, Rogatkin used equipment provided by Raleigh and wore Raleigh's logo. Raleigh, in turn, used images of Rogatkin in its catalogs and advertisements,[3] and publicized Rogatkin on its diamondbackbmx.com website. A mini-biography of Rogatkin, published on the website until at least November of 2011, described Rogatkin as 12 years old, 4 feet 10 inches tall, and sporting the monikers " little dude" and/or " little kid." The website featured several photographs of Rogatkin performing tricks on a 16-inch bicycle, s ee Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. Q, and included a link to Rogatkin's personal Youtube page.s

Periodically, Rogatkin sent photos, videos, and biographical information about himself to Raleigh for use on the website. Rogatkin complained on occasion that Raleigh was giving him too little attention on the website. He also repeatedly asked Raleigh to update his biography and photos to reflect his coming-of-age, and particularly

Page 297

his switch to bigger bicycles.[4] Raleigh, however, delayed in doing so because it used Rogatkin's image to promote sales of its 16-inch bikes.

Sometime in 2009 and 2010, Rogatkin broached the topic of compensation with Raleigh for his efforts on behalf of Team Diamondback. Although Raleigh stated that it would only consider limited financial support for the time being, it hinted at a bright future for Rogatkin. Rogatkin relates several oral and email[5] conversations with Raleigh representatives Mike Hammond, Trevor Knesal, Sharon Robinson, and Kristian Jamieson[6] in which he was assured that he would receive " greatly increased support," that he had a " green light" to feel optimistic about his career at Team Diamondback, and that he could look forward to a " golden life" if he stayed with Raleigh. Rogatkin Dep. at 39:19-23; 108:15-17; & 71:11-22.

In 2010, Raleigh agreed to provide Rogatkin with a $2,000 travel budget.[7] In June of 2011, Rogatkin and Raleigh executed a Diamondback Team Rider Sponsorship Agreement effective from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012.[8] The Sponsorship Agreement provided that Rogatkin would receive a monthly retainer of $416.66, and up to $5,000 in result-based incentive bonuses from Raleigh.[9] Rogatkin Dep. Ex. 8 at Addendum A. In return, Raleigh was permitted to make unlimited promotional use of Rogatkin's name and likeness. Id. ¶ 2.

Rogatkin left Team Diamondback in June of 2012.[10] While still at Team Diamondback, Rogatkin was approached by Bulldog Bikes (in 2009), DK Bikes (in 2010), and KHE (in 2011), with sponsorship nibbles. Out of loyalty to Team Diamondback, Rogatkin did not pursue any of these overtures.[11] After leaving Team Diamondback, however, Rogatkin became a fulltime rider for KHE. At present, KHE pays Rogatkin a $30,000 annual salary and $8,000 in travel expenses. On or about June 6, 2012, Raleigh removed any references to Rogatkin from the Team Diamondback webpage.

After five great years, I am sad to say I'm leaving Diamondback. I've had the best time with the company and with my forever teammates. I want to especially thank Trevor Knesal, who signed me on to the pro team when I was only 11 and sent me on the best trips and the biggest contests around the world. However, a great opportunity has come up for me outside of ...

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