In a somewhat surprising announcement, Nike made it known on Wednesday morning that they were cutting all ties with Lance Armstrong.
Over the course of the last few decades, Nike has become synonymous with some of the biggest names in sports. Because they have worked the most high-profile athletes in the world, inevitably, the brand came across situations where their guys got in trouble. They very, very rarely dropped anyone.
The only case that springs to mind, really, is Michael Vick. And even with Vick, after he served his time for dog-fighting, the powers that be at Nike brought him back as he regained some measure of popularity amongst football fans.
That’s what makes their decision to part ways with Armstrong all the more surprising.
"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 (via ESPN). "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."
ESPN also reported that Nike will change the name of the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
Given all of the athletes that Nike has had no problem representing despite their checkered pasts, it is interesting that they decided to terminate this particular sponsorship.
A cynical person might note that, really, the only reason they’re doing this is because Armstrong is no longer in a position to rehab his image a la Vick. Whereas Vick got another chance to gain new fans by playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, there isn’t going to be a second act for Armstrong.
A less cynical person, however, might simply note that the reason Armstrong got dropped and Vick got reinstated is because the latter’s problems didn’t come on the football field – they arose in his personal life. Conversely, Armstrong’s issues are directly related to his athletic performance.
Either way, the relationship between Nike and Armstrong is officially dead as of this morning.