Just (Don’t) Do it.

The Defectors

The Defectors

The running shoe market is approximately $7 billion. Apparently, with all that money up for grabs, not everyone is able to play nice.

The Defectors:

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?

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19 Responses to Just (Don’t) Do it.

  1. leerunsdistances says:

    So funny you posted about this because I have a similar post coming later today. I’ll comment more about your post later when I can read it in full but I thought it was awesome how we are on the same page!

  2. Pingback: Just (Don’t) Do it. | Lee Runs Distances

  3. lljkline says:

    Yes yes yes! I’m wondering how you feel about Nike now having an ultra team. I fear this will not be good for the sport…

    • Jason says:

      Agreed. I was pretty excited when Zach Miller won JFK last year – since he ran collegiately at RIT and was relatively unknown – and then disappointed when he signed with Nike a short while later. Ouch :/ With that being said, Nike is late to the party and I think they will have a tough time infiltrating the grungy/hippie ultra crowd.

      • lljkline says:

        Yes anyone would’ve snagged him – they must’ve came at him with a sweet deal… But he’s young and new to the sport (of ultra running anyway). I’ll chalk it up to that. We can only hope they (Nike, not the athletes) have a tough time breaking into this sport with their bullying ways.

  4. emmelineruns says:

    Haha lets hope that Gabe and Jordan can manage to not bump into each other in a road race. I think it’s easier for these well-established athletes to go somewhere that they are supported because they are also already a brand in themselves. For a young up and coming athlete, I still see them choosing Nike over smaller brands just because of the opportunities (and funds) associated with that. I hope it changes, and I think big names at some of the smaller companies will help a little, but I don’t think that’s where the changes we need to see in the sport are going to start.

  5. Love reading your posts like this one. Since I am so new to running, I feel like you bring my knowledge to a new level 🙂 Thanks Jason! xoxo

  6. piratebobcat says:

    I wish Brooks would sponsor me. That would be nice.

  7. leerunsdistances says:

    Very well written!!! The last part of your post about certain atheltes that Nike sponsors such as Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, Tiger Woods, Micheal Vick, etc. resonates big time with me and is a sore subject. The fact they openly support such cheats and criminals doesn’t sit well with me when other hard working athletes are kicked to the curb or back into a corner to comply with near impossible contractual obligations or else. Annnnnd Hasay vs. Grunewald II it’ll be a great duel. I really like both athletes but I am a Brooks man so I’ll be pulling for Grunewald and her crazy fast finishing kick!

  8. WalkToRio says:

    The deal USATF-Nike makes me sick, for real.
    I’ve never been against Nike, but I’ve never found a nice pair of running shoes, never.
    That being said, I like the fit of the Track team, I still have a cap from 2004, in perfect conditions. Not the same quality your find in the stores.

  9. djamesbutton says:

    Great post, this topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I like the blog too, it’s always great finding another blogger at a similar fitness level.

  10. Very interesting post. I try not to pay attention to everything around a brand, and just stick to what works for me in terms of their product. In the end, all they want is to make money. All of them.

  11. Nike’s choices of athletes, and how they handle things (i.e. USATF & results of races) generally don’t surprise me, whether I disagree with them or not. They’re the bully, or heck…the ‘mean girl’ leader. Stupid rules for the group members, putting down others, taking control of things merely because they have money or power. While I do believe ALL companies are looking to make money, I think that some brands go about it in a more respectable manner than Nike. While I don’t think that the recent defectors will really affect their revenue- I think it is good that more light is being shed on the behind the scenes issues that we may not normally know about.

  12. Pingback: Link Love: 3/29 | Cowgirl Runs

  13. If I’m being honest, I feel like I’m the only person that doesn’t appreciate LF or her mean girl gal pal, Sally. It seems like they bash on people/brands whenever they get the opportunity. Which is why I’m disappointed that Kara joined the “flock”.

  14. Pingback: Link Love: 3/29 - Cowgirl Runs

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