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Volume 22 No. 35
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Nike speeds up reaction to scandal in recent cases

Has Nike become less willing to look the other way in the face of scandal? In the past month, it’s taken quick action against two athletes, reversing a history of a much more drawn out approach to splitting from endorsement deals. Here are some of those cases.

Joe Paterno — 247 days
Penn State fired the legendary football coach on Nov. 9, 2011, four days after his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on 40 counts of child sexual abuse. Nike didn’t take any action. Paterno died from lung cancer 74 days later. Nike Chairman Phil Knight defended Paterno in a eulogy, saying, “If there was a villain in this tragedy it lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response to it.” On July 12, 2012, an independent report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh concluded Paterno and others enabled Sandusky. The same day, Nike and Knight said it would remove Paterno’s name from the child development center at its corporate campus. Knight later reversed again and said the Freeh report was “unjustified and unsubstantiated.”

Lance Armstrong — 54 days
Nike didn’t flinch when the cyclist got a lifetime ban on Aug. 24, 2012, for doping. The company issued a statement backing Armstrong. Forty-nine days later, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a report with more than 1,000 pages of sworn testimony implicating Armstrong in doping. Nike stood by him again. That changed a week later, on Oct. 17, 2012, when Nike terminated Armstrong’s contract, citing “seemingly insurmountable evidence that [he] participated in doping.”

Ray Rice — 206 days
The NFL running back and his now wife, Janay Palmer, were arrested on Feb. 15, 2014, after an altercation in a casino elevator. Rice was later indicted and charged with third-degree aggravated assault. He was suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on July 24, 2014. TMZ on Sept. 8, 2014, posted a video of Rice punching Palmer in the elevator. Nike cut ties with Rice the next day.

Oscar Pistorius — 575 days
The Olympic runner was charged with murder on Feb. 15, 2013, after he shot and killed his girlfriend. Pistorius contended he thought she was an intruder and he shot her in self defense. Nike suspended his contract on Feb. 21, 2013. It terminated the deal on Sept. 13, 2014, one day after he was found guilty of manslaughter.

Adrian Peterson — 55 days
The Minnesota Vikings running back was indicted Sept. 12, 2014, for beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. Nike suspended his endorsement deal five days later and terminated the deal on Nov. 6, 2014, two days after Peterson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault.

Manny Pacquiao — 2 days
The boxer’s anti-gay remarks aired on television in his native Philippines on Feb. 15. Nike dropped him Feb. 17.

Maria Sharapova — 
Suspended immediately, deal not terminated
The tennis star on March 7 said she failed a drug test. Nike suspended her contract the same day, meaning Sharapova will, at least temporarily, not get a Nike paycheck or appear in any promotions.

Matthew Kish writes for the Portland Business Journal, an affiliated publication.