Lance Armstrong has reached the "finished" line with Nike and Livestrong—previously two of his biggest supporters.
After more damaging news came out about the former cycling great’s alleged doping, the world’s largest shoe and apparel company, and the foundation that he founded and championed for years, severed ties with Armstrong, according to reports.
When Armstrong was banned for life by the U.S. Doping Agency in August, Livestrong stood by him, surprisingly avoiding any PR crisis. In a PR News blog post, we discussed that by relying on a wealth of goodwill built over the years and sticking by its leader, Livestrong showed that in a crisis, organizations can survive and come out even stronger than before.
However, now Livestrong has agreed to part ways to focus on its intended mission rather than have to deal with the distraction that keeping Armstrong around would present.
For Nike’s reputation, continuing to be associated with Armstrong was a PR risk they couldn’t take. According to Darren Rovell, sports business reporter for ESPN, Armstrong is only the second athlete to be terminated by Nike. The company ended its contract with quarterback Michael Vick in 2007 following his plea agreement on dogfighting charges, but re-signed him in 2011.
In this case, putting its name behind someone who has become a controversial figure and has generated constant negative press for cheating in sports would reflect badly upon Nike.
In a statement on its website, Nike said: "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. 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."
As Armstrong’s reputation continues to plunge, Nike’s move was unavoidable. Yet given the company's long, deep involvement in professional sports across the globe, one wonders exactly what company executives knew about Armstrong's actions, and for how long.
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