Nike Terminates Relationship With Armstrong; Lance Resigns From Livestrong Position
Nike today terminated its relationship with cyclist Lance Armstrong due to the “seemingly insurmountable evidence” that he participated in doping and, in the process, “misled” the company. Nike in a statement said, “Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any matter.” The company will continue supporting Livestrong initiatives (Nike). Nike in a statement said that it will "change the name of the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center" at its HQs in Beaverton, Ore. The AP's Michelle Chapman notes Nike traditionally has "stuck by the athletes that it has endorsed in the past during tumultuous times in their lives," including Tiger Woods. The company "distanced itself" from Eagles QB Michael Vick "following a dog-fighting scandal, but by last year, it was backing Vick once again" (AP, 10/17). In Milwaukee, Don Walker notes Nike "has had a history of sticking with its stars," but the company "obviously felt it had to act" after USADA issued its report last week outlining the allegations against Armstrong (JSONLINE.com, 10/17). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes if people still believe Armstrong "didn't cheat and didn't take drugs, you are now officially notified that he did" by Nike's move. Brennen: "Nike knows. Lance did it. Otherwise, it would still be standing by him. ... When Nike drops an athlete, you know he or she has done something terribly, irreparably wrong. That's because Nike has supported, defended and continued to pay all kinds of athletes in trouble," including Woods, Lakers G Kobe Bryant, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and former NFLer Brett Favre (USATODAY.com, 10/17). Nike in July removed the name of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno from its Child Development Center following the release of the school's Freeh Report, which detailed the findings of an investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal (THE DAILY).
RADIOSHACK ALSO CUTS TIES: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's O'Connell & Albergotti report RadioShack today announced it also has "ended its relationship" with Armstrong. A RadioShack spokesperson said, "I can say that RadioShack has no current obligations with Lance Armstrong." The company has been "closely aligned with Mr. Armstrong since it signed a sponsorship agreement with the cyclist" in July '09. RadioShack last week said that it was "monitoring the situation" after the release of USADA's report (WSJ.com, 10/17). AD AGE's Michael McCarthy noted A-B yesterday “issued another public statement of support for Armstrong,” with whom it signed a deal in ’09. A-B VP/Marketing Paul Chibe said, "Our current relationship with Lance remains unchanged" (ADAGE.com, 10/16). But CNBC's Joe Kernen said, "I would bet my life that you do not see another Michelob Ultra commercial with Lance Armstrong” (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 10/17). Trek Bicycle Corp., which "features Armstrong prominently" in its Wisconsin-based HQs, has declined to comment (JSONLINE.com, 10/17). ESPN.com's Darren Rovell notes other Armstrong sponsors, including Oakley, Honey Stinger and FRS, "have thus far continued to stand by his side." However, endorsement deals "typically have morals clauses that allow companies to sever their deals with cause" (ESPN.com, 10/17). Rovell said, "This is the end of Lance Armstrong as a spokesman. He has several other deals. I don't expect those to be active for a long time. I expect his lucrative speaking career to be over now and he's going to have to move on" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/17).
LEAVING LIVESTRONG POSITION: Armstrong said that he is "stepping down" as Livestrong Chair so the group can "focus on its mission instead of its founder's problems." The AP's Jim Vertuno reports Armstrong's duties "leading the board will be turned over" to Vice Chair Jeff Garvey, the organization's founding Chair in '97. Armstrong will remain "on its 15-member board." Livestrong VP/Communications & External Affairs Katherine McLane said that the decision "turns over the foundation's big-picture strategic planning to Garvey." Garvey will assume "some of the public appearances and meetings that Armstrong used to handle," though Armstrong is "expected to speak at Friday night's 15th anniversary gala for Livestrong in Austin" (AP, 10/17). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel writes Nike will continue to support Livestrong, but if the company is "really upset about Lance Armstrong, then let them take the money the company made off him over the years he was cheating -- tens and tens of millions -- and give it all to the fight against cancer." Wetzel: "Otherwise this is just public-relations spin, piling on a guy who the company had long propped up" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/17).
TWITTER REAX: NBC News' Andrea Mitchell wrote on her Twitter feed, "Nike fires #Lance Armstrong they never fired Tiger and rehired Michael Vick. Takes a lot to loose the swoosh." The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke wrote, "It took Nike 8 months to take Joe Paterno's name off their child development center..that they quit on Lance shows how far he's fallen." Marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, a Nike endorser, wrote, "A lot of people were deceived. The Nike I know represents the spirit and ideals of true athletes and would never condone doping." ESPN.com's Bonnie Ford wrote, "Nike just did it."
BLACK-BOARD JUNGLE: Last night’s edition of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” featured a "Back in Black" segment with comedian Lewis Black harping on Armstrong. Black said, "What the hell is wrong with Lance Armstrong? Everybody who’s ever known him says he was doping, everybody who ever rode with him, everybody who ever slept with him, everybody who ever jabbed a needle in his taint, they all say he was doping. But not Lance!” Video clips were shown of Armstrong denying the allegations and saying that fighting them “sucks the life out of you.” Black said, “That sucks the life out of you? You win a 2,000-mile bike race seven years in a row and going to court once a month is too much work? But I suppose this does explain his new ‘Deny Strong’ bracelet. Look, I don’t care that Lance Armstrong was doping. I care that he won’t admit it" (“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” Comedy Central, 10/16).