The running shoe market is approximately $7 billion. Apparently, with all that money up for grabs, not everyone is able to play nice.
Meb: Meb was a Nike-sponsored athlete for many years. He won the 2009 NYC Marathon bedazzled in swooshes – the first American to win NYC in twenty-seven years. Less than eighteen months later, he was essentially cut by Nike. Skechers, in signing Meb, said, “We’re entering the market and we want to be sensitive to athletes who have been underserved and saddled with standard-form contracts.”
Meb is currently with Skechers.
Lauren: Lauren also ran with Nike for a long time. According to her, she left for three reasons. At the end of 2012, she stated:
(1) I want to put my heart into something with more of an upside.
(2) I want a smaller work environment better suited to collaboration.
(3) I want a more holistic marketing philosophy I can invest myself in.
Lauren is currently with Oiselle.
Nick: Nick was with Nike for seven years. When he parted ways with them, he said, “For the immediate goals and the long-term goals, Nike and I were no longer a good fit together.” He added, “The way that Nike is currently writing their contracts, I think, pretty much strips the athletes of all their rights, their ability to market themselves to potential other sponsors. The reduction clauses that they had were harsh and unnecessary.”
Nick is currently with Brooks.
Kara: Kara was with Nike for twelve years. She ran under the guidance of both Alberto Salazar and Jerry Schumacher. She won a bronze medal at the World Championships and she finished third in both the Boston Marathon and the NYC Marathon. In parting with Nike, she said, “I feel so incredibly lucky to have found a company who is empowering women to be stronger… Oiselle supports women runners from beginners to Olympians, and celebrates the journey we all take together.”
Kara is currently with Oiselle.
Leo Manzano: After running for the University of Texas, Leo signed a four-year deal with Nike. While he was with Nike, he won an Olympic silver medal. You would think that would be enough to get a new contract, but in November 2013, negotiations fell apart. Leo is still in search of a new contract. You can help support him by purchasing his shirts here.
Alysia Montaño: Alysia was also cut by Nike despite being the US 800m champion (several times) and having a bronze medal from World Championships. According to her blog, she is currently pregnant, and while this didn’t coincide with the end of her relationship with Nike, it is no secret that Nike has been less-than-friendly to pregnant athletes in the past. Apparently, “Just Do It” does not always apply (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Alysia is currently with Asics.
This post isn’t about slamming Nike.
Okay, it’s mostly not about slamming Nike.
I am a big fan of several Nike-sponsored athletes including Bernard Lagat and Mo Farah. I watch Mary Cain run and I sincerely wish the best for her.
With that being said, I have concerns about a company that fails to work with the athletes above, but has endorsed Lance Armstrong, Kobe Bryant, Marion Jones, Oscar Pistorius, Michael Vick and Tiger Woods.
I also have issues with a company that provides a significant portion of USATF’s budget and then attempts to not-so-subtly impact race results.
The question is, are the winds of change blowing, or is this just the case of four, well-liked, top-tier athletes going their own way? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, Gabe Grunewald and Jordan Hasay are racing on Sunday at the Carlsbad 5000 – are we having fun yet?