Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Nike to end Livestrong deal
By Darren Rovell
Nike is further disassociating from Lance Armstrong.
The world's largest shoe and apparel brand has informed the Livestrong Foundation, the charity that he helped start, that it will discontinue its line of Livestrong-branded products by the end of this year.
"Nike has made the decision to stop producing new Livestrong product after its Holiday 2013 line," Nike spokesman KeJuan Wilkins said in a statement. "We will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation by funding them directly as they continue their work serving and improving outcomes for people facing cancer."
Just last year, sources say Nike sold $150 million of Livestrong-branded products, its most ever. But industry insiders told ESPN.com that Nike, as well as Dick's Sporting Goods, which sold the most product at retail, were ready to give up the business.
Together with Nike, the Livestrong Foundation made more than 87 million of its Livestrong yellow rubber wristbands since May 2004. Nike raised more than $100 million for the foundation through sales of the $1 wristbands and a minimum guarantee and royalty payments made on the sale of Livestrong gear.
"The Livestrong Foundation is deeply grateful to Nike not only for the time and resources it invested in helping us improve the lives of people affected by cancer today, but also the creative drive it brought to our nine-year partnership," the foundation said in a statement released Tuesday.
Nike has been accused of helping Armstrong cover up his past of using performance-enhancing drugs. In 2006, Kathy LeMond, wife of cyclist Greg LeMond, said under oath that Nike paid $500,000 to a former International Cycling Union (UCI) president to cover up a failed drug test. Nike officials said it never happened.
It was a quick decline for Armstrong. In October, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused Armstrong of running the most intricate performance-enhancing drug scheme in history. He was stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned from sanctioned events.
Armstrong lost all his endorsement deals, including those with Trek, Oakley and Michelob Ultra. Nike had sponsored him since 1996 and had paid him about $40 million, according to sources. Nike also dropped Armstrong's name from its fitness center on its sprawling campus in Beaverton, Ore., and Sporting KC, the MLS team that did a stadium-naming-rights deal with Livestrong, severed the deal less than two years into the six-year pact. A two-part confessional interview with Oprah in January didn't help much.
Executives of the UCI are meeting in Russia this week to appoint a three-person panel to look into whether allegations of an Armstrong payoff are true. Aside from the Nike claim, the report released by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in October said that Armstrong paid the UCI $250,000 to keep a positive test at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland quiet. Armstrong said the allegations are "absolutely untrue."