Nike said today that it has no plans to use Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius in future ad campaigns after the South African sports star was charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend.
Nike Inc. spokesman KeJuan Wilkins confirmed the shoe company's plans to The Associated Press. He declined to say whether Nike had previously had any plans for Pistorius, or whether it will pull current advertising that includes him.
Pistorius is a double-amputee who races on carbon-fiber blades and competed in the London Olympics last year. He has been charged with shooting and killing his girlfriend in his South Africa home.
A Nike Internet ad showing Pistorius starting to sprint in his blades with the caption: “I am the bullet in the chamber” has already been pulled.
Wilkins said the wording in the 2007 campaign “was in reference to Oscar's speed and performance on the track. Nike felt it was appropriate to take the ad down from Oscar's website recognizing the sensitivities of the situation.”
Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike, which spent $800 million on endorsements in its last fiscal year, has found itself in tricky situations with athletes before. It dropped Lance Armstrong in October 2012 after charges of widespread doping on his cycling teams. Armstrong has since admitted to doping and has been stripped of his seven Tour de France victories, and was also dropped by other sponsors. But Nike stood by golfer Tiger Woods after he admitted to infidelities and went to rehab for sex addiction, and restarted a relationship with football player Michael Vick once he had served time for illegal dog-fighting.
Pistorius’ website, which has been posting statements from his manager and his family, still shows other Nike ads, as well as logos from it and other sponsors.
One of those, sunglasses maker Oakley, did not respond to a message from The Associated Press today.
However, Peet Van Zyl of Pistorius’ management company said today that “at this point in time, all sponsors are still on board, and they have given us their commitment towards Oscar, based on the relationships that they have formed with him over the past years.” He added that the sponsors “are quite happy to allow the legal process to take its course before they make any other further and formal announcements about it.”
Pistorius’ agent has canceled the athlete's future scheduled races.