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COLUMN: Seriously, Nike?

Lance Armstrong announced Wednesday he is stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong cancer awareness charity after 16 years. The same day, Nike terminated all endorsements of the seven-time Tour de France champion after a release from the U.S. anti-doping agency that included Armstrong as guilty of cheating.

I get that Nike “doesn’t condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs,” but they still sponsor Tiger Woods after cheating on his wife and sleeping with dozens of women. And that’s OK? I sense a little bias here.

Not to mention, Nike ultimately stood by Michael Vick after he served jail time for illegal dog fighting.

There is no consistency in who Nike chooses to stand by in time of public scrutiny.

The domino effect is in full swing in the market. Others followed suit, and Nike is even changing the name of the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center in Beaverton, Ore. The beer company Anheuser-Busch, whose Michelob Ultra brand was promoted by Armstrong, also severed ties. Not to mention the bike manufacturer Trek Bicycle and athletic products maker Honey Stinger followed the lead and dropped Armstrong.

We still have some faith in sunglass maker Oakley, who said it would withhold judgment until the International Cycling Union decides whether to challenge the USADA’s findings. Chances are, Armstrong will not be a part of their brand anymore, either.

I understand the complexity of his actions, and although I don’t think doping should be advocated by any means, where do they draw the line? How do they decide who to stand by? Why are his actions worth ending all endorsements?

The media infers that Armstrong is voluntarily stepping down from the foundation to avoid negative publicity. I’m sure Nike impacted his “choice.” Nike is causing itself more negative publicity by dropping Armstrong from the foundation by making a bigger deal out of it. Bad PR move.

He used blood transfusions and testosterone to enhance his performance. Tiger Woods cheated on his wife and went to a sex-addiction rehabilitation center. Both in the public eye are frowned upon, but why the favoritism toward Tiger in Nike’s eyes?

Nike doesn’t mess around. The company spent $800 million on endorsements this past fiscal year, which a substantial chunk went toward Armstrong’s campaign. Cutting ties will only cause the campaign to suffer.  The public was dismayed by Woods when his infidelity was revealed, but no one seems to be bothered by Armstrong.

Nike brand President Charlie Denson inferred the company still supports Woods because his actions are not directly affiliated with the sport itself. Although I can agree to that somewhat, the negative consequences Armstrong is dealing with are not fair after Woods’ “slap on the wrist.” Both are personal actions.

With Nike, the Livestrong Foundation has raised more than $470 million to fight cancer and to support cancer research. I am still proud to see people wear the yellow bracelets and am disappointed in Nike for not supporting their long-time hero.

Tiger Woods’ actions are disgusting and Nike should re-evaluate what they are portraying by their actions. A little consistency would be a good move.

2 Comments

  1. You seem to like using the word “inferred.” You should learn to use it correctly; it’s not synonymous with “implied.”

    “A little consistency would be a good move.”

    You want it? You’ve got it, and you know it. Neither Vick nor Woods were implicated in misconduct within their respective sports. While they’re certainly not paragons of virtue either, they didn’t get ahead by cheating.

  2. Melissa-I would strongly encourage you to read through the USADA 202 page report on the multi-year investigation. The examples you cited in your column were character flaws of two individuals that had no bearing on the sport in which they participated. Mr. Armstrong on the other hand used performance enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to give him an edge over his competition in the sport of cycling. There is a well defined difference between the actions of Mr. Woods Mr. Vick and Mr. Armstrong. Someone who cheats on his wife, or a person engaged in illegal dog fighting did not affect the outcome of their chosen sport at all. Unfortunately Mr. Armstrong was immersed in a culture of doping and by all accounts he was the absolute best at it. Sad–sad indeed.

    Les Rosan
    Alma, MI

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