SBD/February 25, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Going The Distance? Nike In The Middle Of Latest USA Track & Field Controversy

Grunewald's disqualification came following a protest by Salazar
USA Track & Field two days after disqualifying U.S. 3,000-meter champion Gabriele Grunewald has "reversed its decision," according to German & Helliker of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Grunewald was disqualified for "clipping the heels of another runner on the final lap of a race at the U.S. indoor championships in Albuquerque." The move had come in "response to a protest from Alberto Salazar of Nike, who is a coach for many top distance runners." The disqualification of Grunewald, who is "sponsored by Brooks Running, opened a spot on the U.S. team for Jordan Hasay, an athlete sponsored by Nike and coached by Salazar." Dennis Barker, Grunewald's coach, yesterday said that he "believed the disqualification was granted largely on the basis of Salazar's outsize clout in the sport." USATF said that "nobody received special treatment in the process." Nike in a statement said that it "had 'no involvement' in Grunewald's disqualification or reinstatement or in the crafting of Salazar's statement." German & Helliker note sponsorships "accounted for 45% of USATF's budget" in '12. Nike is USATF's "largest sponsor, and Salazar is Nike's most prominent coach" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/25). In Indianapolis, David Woods notes Doyle Management Founder & CEO Paul Doyle, Grunewald's agent, also "represents Nike athletes such as decathlete Ashton Eaton and hurdler Lolo Jones." Doyle and Indiana Invaders track club coach Greg Harger said that USATF's "leadership and committee members, not Nike, were to blame for the latest incident." However, some athletes, "especially those affiliated with Nike, were reluctant to speak out on the latest dispute" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/25).
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