Nike severs ties with ‘rogue’ NBA basketballer brand ambassador

By our News Team | 2022

Sponsorship agreement worth an estimated US$11-million a year terminated over NBA star’s ant-semitic social media stance.

In yet another example of a big-name corporate having to deal with a brand ambassador ‘gone rogue’, Nike this week announced that it has cancelled its sponsorship agreement with NBA basketball player Kyrie Irving.

Irving, who is a star player for the Brooklyn Nets team in the US-based league, was on an endorsement and signature-shoe marketing agreement said to be worth around US$11-million a year.

Brand Ambassadors

NBA basketballer Kyrie Irving. Photo by Erik Drost via Wikipedia

He was provisionally suspended in November – both by his team and Nike – after he posted a tweet that contained a link to a documentary which included Nazi Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories involving Jewish people. After first refusing to condemn the documentary, Irving later apologised.

But clearly the apology wasn’t enough for the sports brand, which made the suspension permanent. Irving’s agent announced: “We have mutually decided to part ways and wish Nike the best in their future endeavours.”

NBA star ‘stepped over the line’

When Irving was first suspended last month, Nike’s Chairman, Phil Knight, said in a TV interview: “Kyrie stepped over the line. It’s kind of that simple… so he made some statements that we just can’t abide by, and that’s why we ended the relationship. And yeah, I was fine with that.”

According to the sports industry website Sportspro Media, Nike had worked on a signature shoe series with the point guard since 2014, with Forbes business magazine estimating the deal to be worth $11-million a year. 

The latest branded shoe in the series, dubbed the ‘Kyrie 8’, was set to launch in November 2022, but had its release cancelled as a result of the company suspending Irving’s deal.

In other news involving Nike and its brand ambassadors, Brazilian soccer star Vinicius Jr, who is currently playing at the FIFA World Cup, is reportedly unhappy with the relationship and has requested his legal team to find a way terminate it. 

The 22-year-old Real Madrid player’s sponsorship deal is said to be worth $8.6-million per year and runs until 2028.