Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Nike drops Lance Armstrong
By Darren Rovell
The biggest corporate supporter of cyclist Lance Armstrong left his side Wednesday, and others quickly followed suit.
Nike, the world's largest shoe and apparel company, announced it has terminated its endorsement deal with Armstrong.
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"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," the company said in a statement. "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."
Nike's announcement came on the same day Armstrong stepped down as chairman of his cancer-fighting foundation, Livestrong, so that the organization can focus on its mission instead of doping allegations against its founder.
Over the years, Nike paid Armstrong about $40 million for his endorsement, a source said.
Nike wasn't the only company to part ways with Armstrong on Wednesday.
The company that supplied the bikes that he rode to seven Tour de France victories, Trek, severed ties as well.
"Trek is disappointed by the findings and conclusions in the USADA report regarding Lance Armstrong," the Waterloo, Wis., company said in a statement. "Given the determinations of the report, Trek today is terminating our longterm relationship with Lance Armstrong. Trek will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation and its efforts to combat cancer."
Anheuser Busch, whose Michelob Ultra brand was promoted by Armstrong, also left the cyclist.
"We have decided not to renew our relationship with Lance Armstrong when our current contract expires at the end of 2012," said Paul Chibe,
vice president of U.S. marketing for Anheuser-Busch, in a statement. "We will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation and its cycling and running events."
Energy drink company FRS said Wednesday that Armstrong will no longer be featured in advertising or marketing for their products. He is also an investor in the company but resigned from the board of directors, effective immediately.
Some other Armstrong sponsors, including Oakley and Honey Stinger, thus far have not cut ties with the cyclist.
"As we have stated in the past, Oakley does not approve in any way the use of illegal substances for enhancing performance in sports," Oakley said in a statement. "Our policy with our athletes is to support them until proven guilty by the highest governing body of sport or court of law. We are reviewing the extensive report from the USADA, as well as our relationship with Lance, and will await final decision-making by the International Cycling Union."
It is believed Armstrong is the second athlete whose deal has been terminated by Nike. The company terminated its contract with quarterback Michael Vick in 2007 following his plea agreement on dogfighting charges, but Nike re-signed him in 2011. Endorsement contracts typically have morals clauses that allow companies to sever their deals with cause.
A call placed Wednesday to Armstrong, who has had a deal with Nike since 1996, was not answered.
Together with Nike, the Livestrong Foundation raised more than $80 million through the sale of yellow Livestrong rubber wristbands since May 2004. Nike also has a line of Livestrong-branded products, including shoes and T-shirts. There were nearly 100 Livestrong items available for purchase on Nike's website Wednesday morning.
A source told ESPN that Nike also will change the name of the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center building at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.