Fast forward to today and the statement that Nike issued on their website:
"Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner. Nike plans to continue support of the Livestrong initiatives created to unite, inspire and empower people affected by cancer."
I wonder what they want in return. A medal? Are they suddenly expecting us to think they actually have integrity? Let's remember that Nike signed football star Michael Vick after he had been arrested and found guilty of running a dog fighting ring....the first time in the history of sports marketing that a company dropped an athlete from their brand and then signed them back.
As I was listening to the presidential debate last night, one question posed to the candidates was "How can we keep American companies from sending jobs overseas." One answer I was looking for was not uttered by either candidate - and in reality, probably doesn't exist: Convince highly successful American companies that NOT outsourcing their manufacturing to China, Indonesia and Vietnam (I'm talking to you Nike), where the law prohibits workers from forming independent trade unions and protective labor laws are unenforced, is actually patriotic - it's the right thing to do. Convince them that even though this will reduce their profit margin, they will still be able to grow rich and would simultaneously put Americans to work - it's the right thing to do. When was doing the right thing ever synonymous with doing the easiest thing? Doing the right thing is hard......kind of like not doping. I say this at the risk of sound ridiculously naive, I realize. But how much money does Phil Knight really need, anyway? So much that he endorses a torturer of animals? So much that he condones Indonesian child sweat shops? So much that he indirectly bankrolled the largest, most systematic doping program in the history of sport?
I guess it should not be surprising, therefore, that one of Nike's recent ad campaigns for a soccer jersey for the Sport Club International was delivered in some very unique and crazy expensive packaging:
"COLORADO BLOOD: When a team enters the pitch, every fan wants the players to give their blood, sweat and tears for the club. That's what inspired Nike for the launching of the new jersey of Sport Club Internacional. Known as Colorado (the red team), the red of its famous jersey was presented inside a blood bag."
Opening the box reveals an IV bad surrounded by plastic 'ice cubes'.
And within the IV bag is a red jersey, with Nike swoosh.
"MANIFESTO: If there is one thing that identifies us, it is blood. Blood is what makes our hearts beat. It is what keeps us alive. Blood carries our history. Every win, every tear, every trophy is there. And trophies abound for those who have won everything....."
Indeed, "blood does identify us...." just ask Jan Ulrich, Ivan Basso, Frank Schleck and every other Operacion Puerto cyclist.
All Nike proved by dropping their endorsement for Lance was that they were the first rat to jump from the deck of the sinking ship. Soon after they bailed - RadioShack followed. Interestingly, at the time of this writing, the Lance Armstrong website still listed them both as sponsors. Well if anyone is interested in playing a little doping bingo - I've attached a board below for you to play along....Any guesses as to which company is next?
Nike's abandonment not only opens the door for other sponsors to follow suit, but it nearly commands it if the others want to feign 'integrity' as well.***
Here's the kicker in my household....The GEEC loves Nike shit....she just ran the Chicago marathon in a great Nike running shirt. I know she must grow tired (as I'm sure many of you have) of me bitching and moaning about all the facets that emerge surrounding this issue on a daily basis, so when she heard me complaining about Nike the other evening, she really looked weary and asked, "Is Nike on the shit-list too?"
I told her it's probably best to ignore me for a while...
*** Addendum: Well, today ended up being a little like dominoes in the world of LA sponsorship abandonment. In case anyone needs a refresher to their board, you can check out the COMO CYCO Tumblr site - or look below. Hope everyone had fun playing! There are still three open spaces....(We're looking at you Oakley, SRAM and Johnson!)