Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Nike dropped Masha. So why are they inconsistent when it comes to erring athletes?

This appears in the Thursday, March 10, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.

Swoon Swoosh S’long
by rick olivares

I can understand the shoe company’s zero tolerance towards performance enhancing drugs. Lance Armstrong's repeated denials about PED use through the years must still ruffle many a feather from this billion-dollar giant to this day. So the shoe company’s dropping Maria Sharapova like a hot potato following her admission to using a drug that was only banned as of January 1 this year came as no surprise. 

Still it had me wondering…. was it an overreaction? No way am I condoning PED use. Not at all. I think it is unethical and really wrong. As much as Masha took full responsibility for what she admits is close to an irresponsible oversight (the drug was only banned 69 days ago), if this shoe company is truly the paragon of ethics then why is it that they deal with their other scandals differently?

For example, those sweat shops in China. For quite some time, the shoe company’s officials argued that they had no say in the working conditions of the employees. Only when they caved in from pressure and the court of public opinion did they influence changes in those factories. If they do exercise a modicum of influence why didn’t they do it earlier? For sure they must know of the poor conditions. If they can easily drop athletes who violate whatever code of ethics they prescribe, why didn’t they drop those sweat shops for others with better conditions? Was it because they made a tidier profit?

Now how about after Tiger Woods’ Pandora’s box of infidelities opened up and when Kobe Bryant was caught up in a rape case, why did the shoe company stay by their side? 

More recently, the shoe company was somewhat inferred to in the ongoing investigations in FIFA’s corruption scandals. Many people the shoe company associated with in world football are either charged or are implicated. Maybe as a company, they didn’t know anything and only certain individuals were a part of that scandal. But Masha said she didn’t know either.

I guess performance enhancing drugs are a bigger issue than adultery and corruption that has nothing to do with direct performance. Yet, they saw it fit to part ways with Manny Pacquiao for his comments about LGBTs.

Maybe they know something deeper about Masha’s admission of guilt. Maybe they don’t. 

It is of course the shoe company's prerogative on who they want to support. I struggle though to figure out what is the core of their ethics. 

They sure have come a long way from “image is everything” to “just do it” that has been around since forever. The clever slogans and incredible and indelible imagery featuring their sponsored athletes have been indelible images in our minds.

The problem is when those images are shattered and the shoe company leaves us wondering, so what do you really care about?


  1. Maybe Im overthinking this, but its a matter of convenience to them. I mean, notice that the people they dropped, Pacquiao and Sharapova, are not as big household names as they were before; Id like to see them try dropping those two at the height of their careers

  2. the core of their ethics??? ... It's money