T-Mobile buys advertising spot on Nick Symmonds' shoulder

Track star Nick Symmonds has sold the rights to put a logo on his right shoulder for the 2016 season for $21,800.

The winning bidder in the eBay auction, which closed Thursday, was T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who took to Twitter to ask his more than 2.4 million followers what he should put on the two-time Olympian as a temporary tattoo.

The leading choice in the Twitter poll is an emoji of Legere with a profane reference to T-Mobile competitor AT&T. He has not said what tattoo he will use.

"I love the sport of running," Legere said. "These people are absolutely amazing athletes. There's something about athletes who push the boundaries of a sport both on and off the field, and Nick does both. I'm naturally drawn to that persona."

Although the contract stipulates that Symmonds wear the logo or message on his skin for six races, including the Olympic Games should he qualify for a third time, it's likely that Symmonds will have to cover the ad for many of those races, including the U.S. trials and the Olympics.

AT&T has been the official telecommunications partner of the U.S. Olympic Committee and of USA Track & Field since 1984 and 2006, respectively.

Over the years, Symmonds -- who wears a temporary tattoo of his caffeinated-gum company Run Gum on his left shoulder -- has led the fight for athlete rights with the USATF and the USOC.

In August, Symmonds, who won the 800 meters at the U.S. trials, was not allowed to compete in the world championship after he refused to sign the USATF's statement of conditions. Those conditions made athletes promise that they would wear Nike attire, save for shoes, sunglasses and watches, at team functions. Symmonds has been a Brooks endorser for the past year and a half after being compensated by Nike for the seven years before that.

Symmonds' argument was that he doesn't get paid enough to put Nike on. The company signed a deal with USATF worth $20 million per year from 2018 to 2040. Last year, a USATF official said a Tier 1 athlete like Symmonds would be compensated roughly $25,000 in stipends and benefits. In February, Symmonds tweeted his 1099 for 2015, which showed USATF paid him $772.

"The sale of my skin is just another example of an athlete taking control of the valuable space that we own," said Symmonds, who sold the rights for a similar temporary tattoo to a marketing agency for $11,000 in 2012. "Allowing us to better market ourselves will inject tens of millions of dollars into the sport and help professional runners, 50 percent of which now live below the poverty line, make a living."

In the past, Legere has given race bonuses, particularly to long-distance runners, out of his own bank account. He is aware that whatever his company decides to put on Symmonds' body will likely have to be covered during some races.

The International Olympic Committee's Rule 40 states that if a company that is not an official Games sponsor endorses an Olympian, the company cannot advertise with the athlete during a one-month period that includes before, during and shortly after the Games.

"As CEO of T-Mobile, we don't put up with bureaucratic B.S.," Legere said. "The IOC makes billions off sponsorship deals. I'd like to see more of that money find its way to the athletes who deserve it most."

In February, Symmonds filed a lawsuit against USATF that seeks to allow non-shoe and apparel manufacturers to put their logos on runners' singlets at the U.S. championships and Olympic trials. A motion to dismiss the case was recently heard in court in Oregon.