Nike stuck by Tiger Woods through his ugly womanizing scandal, continued sponsoring Kobe Bryant when he was accused of rape and even inked a deal with Michael Vick after he served a prison sentence for helping organize a dogfighting ring, but yesterday the shoe and apparel manufacturer announced it's ending its nearly decade-long deal with the Livestrong Foundation.
It seems one thing—perhaps the only thing—Nike won't tolerate is cheating.
At the end of this year, Nike said, it will no longer manufacture Livestrong-branded apparel, though it will continue its direct financial support of the cancer foundation through the end of 2014. Nike is the charity's main corporate backer, though the company also added that it won't renew that partnership.
The announcement comes despite the fact that the Livestrong brand appears untainted by Lance Armstrong's fall from grace. Nike reportedly made $150 million on the product line last year, the most it's sold since the partnership began in 2004. During that time, Nike manufactured and sold roughly 87 million of the near-ubiquitous yellow rubber Livestrong bracelets with the cancer foundation Armstrong helped start, raising more than $100 million for the charity.
This is the latest blow to Armstrong's once-peerless image. Nike was one of the disgraced cyclist's most stalwart allies and defenders during his long fight with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Some have even accused Nike of playing an active role in Armstrong's doping conspiracy. But after the USADA relased its 202-page Reasoned Decision in October 2012, detailing evidence of Armstrong's doping, Nike—his only remaining sponsor at the time—ended its contract with him due to "seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade."
Since then, Armstrong publicly admitted to doping in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey, and apologized to the Livestrong staff for putting the foundation at risk. Livestrong tried rebranding itself, dropping Armstrong's name.
“Considering what the foundation had been through recently and the significant changes that have occurred, of course, the foundation’s leadership had to hope for the best but expect changes like this,” Livestrong spokesperson Katherine McLane told the New York Times. “Obviously, it’s a sad day, but it’s marked by the foundation’s deep gratitude to Nike.”