Nike, Oakley move away from PistoriusPublished: 2/19/13 @ 12:00
Two major sponsors, Oakley and Nike, distanced themselves from Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius on Monday after the South African sports star was charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend.
Oakley, the eyewear maker, suspended its contract with Pistorius. And Nike, which sells shoes and other athletic gear, said it has no plans to use him in future ad campaigns.
Pistorius lost both of his legs in childhood. Racing on carbon-fiber blades, he was the first amputee athlete to run at the world championships in 2011, and he made history competing in the London Olympics last year. His success at overcoming hardship made him popular with South Africans, and a desirable pitchman for advertisers.
On Thursday, he was arrested and charged with shooting his girlfriend to death in his home in South Africa. His family has denied that he murdered his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius’ agent has canceled the athlete’s future scheduled races.
Nike Inc. confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that it had no plans to use Pistorius in future campaigns. Nike spokesman KeJuan Wilkins declined to say whether Nike previously had any plans for Pistorius, or whether it will remove current advertising that includes him.
A 2007 Nike Internet ad showing Pistorius starting to sprint in his blades with the caption: “I am the bullet in the chamber” already had 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.”
Later Monday, Oakley, in an emailed statement, said that “in light of the recent allegations, Oakley is suspending its contract with Oscar Pistorius, effective immediately.” The California company, a unit of Italian glasses and sunglasses maker Luxottica Group, has been associated with Pistorius since 2009, according to the athlete’s website.