Kobe Bryant appeared to have quite the ace up his sleeve before his untimely passing this year.
Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, a co-founder of Sherpa Capital who has invested in such companies as Airbnb and Uber, revealed a bombshell about Bryant this week. Pishevar tweeted that he met with the Los Angeles Lakers icon in Dec. 2019 to discuss Bryant’s plans to start Mamba, a shoe company that would be owned by players. Bryant was supposedly unhappy with Nike and was planning to leave the brand in 2020. Pishevar also shared details of the meeting and the designs he presented to Bryant.
Pishevar further stated that Bryant was specifically displeased with Nike’s commitment to his shoe line as well as the poor sales numbers.
Bryant’s plans were confirmed by author Pat Benson, who wrote the book “Kobe Bryant’s Sneaker History (1996-2020).” Benson said it was “very likely” that the five-time NBA champion would have left Nike.
“It’s shocking because Kobe was Nike’s golden goose and habitually toed the company line,” Benson told Meredith Cash of Insider.com. “Many of his fans were upset with Nike’s handling of his signature line following his retirement. It feels redeeming that Kobe was unhappy about it too.
“It’s certainly going to make things awkward with Nike in the future,” added Benson. “But it adds to the beautiful complexity of Kobe. Always pushing the envelope.”
Bryant, who passed away on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash, had been with Nike for 17 years at the time of his death. He became synonymous with the brand, launching several signature sneakers with them and coming out in many memorable advertising campaigns (including appearing as a puppet with LeBron James, seemingly jumping over a speeding Aston Martin, and promoting the “Kobe System” in a series of ads with Kanye West). Bryant had previously been endorsed by Adidas early on in his NBA career.
It is unclear if anything will ever become of the plans for the Mamba shoe company. But Bryant’s vision for a player-owned business model may just live on through this effort that we recently heard about.
The Colin Kaepernick workout situation has split many fans, observers and media members into factions. There are those who believe Kaepernick was wronged by the NFL and that the NFL’s workout was just a P.R. stunt. There are those who believe Kaepernick is more interested in furthering his career as an activist than playing football. The events of this week are unlikely to change anyone’s minds based on what they believed before, and probably only strengthened their previous beliefs.
Kaepernick has his media supporters and his team/reps leak information to them. The NFL has their media members of choice and leak information to them.
Charles Robinson has been a go-to media member for Kaepernick’s team and has written several pro-Kaepernick pieces since news of the NFL-backed workout became public on Tuesday. Hearing both sides of a story is important for providing balanced coverage and allowing people to make their choices about what they believe to be truthful and not. Robinson has provided Kaepernick’s camp with a platform and large outlet to share their views. That serves a valuable role.
However, while Robinson can provide his pro-Kaepernick biased pieces, one thing he should strive for is to at least be factually accurate with his platform. He was not on Saturday night on Twitter when he alleged the NFL asserted Nike attended the Kaepernick workout on Saturday to film it.
Robinson said on Twitter that the NFL made an “assertion” that Nike was “on hand to film Colin Kaepernick’s workout.” He even said Nike was trying to get the NFL to retract that statement.
This sounds like a big gotcha! moment and more proof of the NFL being wrong and looking to smear Kaepernick and his brand. But there is one big problem: the NFL NEVER said that, so there is no statement to retract.
In the NFL’s statement in response to Kaepernick no-showing their workout and instead handling his own, the league wrote the following:
The third bullet point mentioned Nike and said this:
“Last night, when Nike, with Colin’s approval, requested to shoot an ad featuring Colin and mentioning all the NFL teams present at the workout, we agreed to the request.”
The fifth bullet point also mentioned Nike and said this:
“We heard for the first time last night, around the same time we heard from Nike, that Colin wanted to bring his own video crew. We heard for the first time this afternoon that Colin wanted to open the event to all media.”
The NFL never once said Nike attended Saturday’s workout. All they said was that Nike requested to shoot an ad featuring Kaepernick and that the league agreed to the request. Those are two different things.
If a person asks whether they can bring a friend to the party and the host says yes, does that mean that the friend came to the party? No, it just means that the person asked and the host said yes.
What is so hard about that to understand?
The thing about the Kaepernick story — as this example perfectly illustrates — is that people are seeing what is unfolding for what they want to see. In the case of Robinson, his bias is so strong that he isn’t even representing the facts accurately, which makes him lose credibility.
If he wants to represent Kaepernick’s side of things, that is fine. But at least attempt to be accurate and fair, especially when you have this platform and the influence that goes along with it. At the time of this publishing, his tweet was retweeted by over 1,400 Twitter accounts and liked by over 3,000.
On top of that, after Robinson tweeted to suggest Nike caught the NFL in a lie, Jemele Hill joined in and added it to her story, saying it’s all “part of pushing the narrative.”
Hill didn’t even bother to see whether the story was accurate or not. She just took the information and added it to the story she wants to tell, even if it’s not true.
If either of these respected journalists cared about fairness and accuracy — which are key tenets for journalists — then they would issue corrections and retractions to let their audiences know the truth. If they don’t, then their positions will have been made clear: they are slanted activists working to make Kaepernick look good, not to present facts and truth.
One of the NBA’s budding new on-court fashion trends appears to be no more.
In a series of tweets this past weekend, Philadelphia 76ers forward Mike Scott hinted that players were now banned from wearing the ninja-style headbands that catapulted onto the scene last season. The veteran said that objectors should “start a petition” and “send it to Nike,” also tweeting that the headbands were deemed to be “too unprofessional.”
Scott, who was also in the news for less-than-ideal reasons this weekend, was one of several NBA players who started sporting the look last season. Other ninja-style headband enthusiasts included the LA Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell, the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday, the Sacramento Kings’ DeAaron Fox, and numerous others.
Larry Brown Sports reached out to both Nike and the NBA about Scott’s assertion but has not received a response.
The demise of the ninja headband would be a disappointment to many, as they were arguably more visually pleasing than the classic headband look and also allowed players to inject some extra personality into their on-court look. In any case though, this brings to mind the ban that the NBA had previously implemented on upside-down headbands nearly a decade ago.
Nike has shown LeBron James some serious love.
Nike announced on Thursday that they have named a new building at its World Headquarters (WHQ) after LeBron. The LeBron building is the sixth building that was added to Nike’s WHQ as part of an expansion project that began in 2015.
The LeBron James Building will be home to Nike’s Sport Research Lab. The building will include a full NBA-size basketball court, 200-meter endurance track, 100-meter straightaway, and an artificial turf training pitch.
“It’s so surreal,” James said in a statement. “It’s been an honor to be a part of such a great company for the last 18 years. And to know that a building with my name will reside on campus — it’s truly an honor, and I feel truly special.”
James has been signed to Nike since 2003. He has a lifetime deal with the brand that is rumored to be worth $1 billion.
Attorney Michael Avenatti is once again accusing Nike executives of improper conduct, including approving illegal payments to Zion Williamson and other players.
Avenatti was arrested on March 25 and charged by federal prosecutors for attempting to extort Nike. Avenatti allegedly was threatening to hold a press conference in which he would unveil improper activities between Nike and high school/college programs unless they paid him $25 million.
Avenatti hired legal representation for the extortion case and is seeking to have the charges dismissed on grounds of vindictive and selective prosecution. His attorneys filed a motion in U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday that included numerous allegations, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.
According to the motion, Avenatti has evidence Nike executives approved cash payments to be made to handlers and family members of amateur players. The payments are often made in an effort to steer an amateur player to a college program sponsored by the shoe company. Adidas was at the center of a college basketball scandal over the past two years for this issue. Avenatti says Nike has engaged in similar practices.
Avenatti claims to have evidence showing a Nike employee was willing to make a $35,000 payment to Zion Williamson, $20,000 for Romeo Langford, and $15,000 for another player. Williamson played his freshman season at Duke, which is a Nike-sponsored school, while Langford went to Indiana, an Adidas school.
Avenatti claims to have gained the evidence and information through former amateur coach Gary Franklin. Franklin coached the California Supreme, a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) team. Franklin alleges Nike tried to funnel payments through him intended for the handlers and/or family of several players on his teams, such as Deandre Ayton. Franklin retained Avenatti’s services after claiming to have been forced out by Nike once he no longer felt comfortable going along with their scheme.
In April, Avenatti also accused Nike of making payments to the mother of Williamson, who ended up going No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft.
A malfunction with a pair of sneakers made by Nike may have cost Zion Williamson some time during the college basketball season earlier this year, but it sounds like it actually turned out to be a good thing for the former Duke star.
Williamson announced on Tuesday that he has signed an endorsement deal with Jordan Brand, which is of course owned by Nike. While the terms of the deal were not initially known, Darren Rovell of The Action Network reports that Williamson blowing out his shoe on national TV “made the stakes of landing Zion that much greater.” Rovell estimates that Williamson made millions more on his endorsement deal because the embarrassing sneaker malfunction made Nike that much more desperate to sign him.
Williamson suffered what initially looked like a serious injury in Duke’s game against rival North Carolina back in March when his shoe literally fell apart during play. It was a public relations nightmare for Nike, which sponsors Duke and produces their athletic gear.
As many as seven shoe companies expressed interest in signing Williamson before he was drafted No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, and some wondered if the blown out shoe would impact his decision. He fueled that buzz when he was spotted wearing a different brand a few months back, but in the end it sounds like the deal worked out for everyone.
The legal battle between Kawhi Leonard and Nike over the reigning NBA Finals MVP’s logo continues.
Leonard filed a lawsuit against Nike in June in which he claimed Nike copyrighted his Klaw logo without his consent. On Wednesday, Nike filed a countersuit in Southern California in which they stated their designers created the logo based on a concept provided by Leonard. They even provided a photo of the rough draft of Leonard’s logo compared to their design.
Nike is seeking a judgement that would declare them the owner of the logo, an injunction preventing Leonard from using the logo, plus damages and attorney fees.
In its suit, Nike even cited comments from Leonard in a Nice Kicks article that originally was published on Oct. 29, 2014.
“I give the Jordan Brand team all the credit because I’m no artist at all,” said Leonard. “They refined it and made it look better than I thought it would ever be, and I’m extremely happy with the final version.”
Leonard endorsed Nike from 2011-2018 and signed a contract acknowledging Nike as the copyright owner of the logo. Leonard left Nike and signed with New Balance in November. He would like to be able to use the logo with his new company.
Nike is seeking to have the case moved to Oregon, which is where the company is headquartered.
LeBron James will not be switching jersey numbers in the upcoming season as previously planned due to a lack of approval from Nike, according to reports.
James has worn jersey No. 23 in all his NBA seasons but his four-year stint with the Miami Heat, when he wore No. 6. No. 23 is what Anthony Davis has worn throughout his career. To welcome his new teammate to the Los Angeles Lakers, James was going to give Davis No. 23 and likely switch back to No. 6.
However, Yahoo’s Chris B. Haynes reported on Friday that the jersey switch will not be happening. Haynes reported that the request came in after the March 15 deadline. The league would have allowed the switch if manufacturer Nike approved it, but they did not, citing a major financial loss they would have incurred.
According to ESPN, Nike stood to lose “well into the tens of millions of dollars” on the switch due to already-produced LeBron James No. 23 Lakers jerseys.
A player has the ability to buy out the jerseys as we’ve seen one do in the past, but James opted to keep his number out of respect to the fans who have already purchased his Lakers jersey and to avoid further controversy, Haynes reported.
Now we will wait to see what jersey number Davis picks.
Nike is adding contractual protection for female athletes who get pregnant after facing negative publicity for not doing so in the past.
On Sunday, The New York Times ran an opinion piece from Lindsay Crouse and video by 33-year-old distance runner Alysia Montaño that pointed out the lack of fairness and support from sponsors towards female athletes who get pregnant. Montaño says when she told Nike she was pregnant, they told her they were going to pause her contract. Crouse pointed out the hypocrisy from Nike, which has created advertising campaigns in which they claim to support and empower female athletes, encouraging them to dream big.
Nike apparently took note of the criticism and has enacted a change.
The Wall Street Journal’s Khadeeja Safdar reported on Friday that Nike has now added language to their contracts that will protect female athletes’ pay during pregnancy.
“We recognize we can do more and that there is an important opportunity for the sports industry to evolve to support female athletes,” the company said.
Nike says they adopted the policy last year but just started writing them into their contracts. Their previous contracts allowed them to pause contracts or reduce pay “for any reason.”
Previously, athletes were not able to speak about these issues due to non-disclosure agreements or fears of retribution. Nike goes to great distances to protect the brand and its athletes for fear of negative publicity, so their quick action and response is not surprising.
Michael Avenatti has kicked his Nike accusations into high gear.
Avenatti, an attorney known for representing Stormy Daniels in her case against Donald Trump, is being accused of attempting to extort Nike. He allegedly threatened to go public with accusations against Nike if they did not pay him.
Avenatti has decided to go public in the last 24 hours with his accusations anyway.
On Friday night, Avenatti accused Nike exec Carlton DeBose of bribing high schoolers so that they would attend Nike-sponsored colleges. He later accused Nike of making payments to Zion Williamson’s mother Sharonda Sampson for bogus “consulting services”, which he says were bribes.
Williamson ended up choosing to attend Duke for college. The Blue Devils have been sponsored by Nike since 1992, and Coach K has extremely strong ties to the brand. He has previously denied any wrongdoing in a scandal involving improper payments that has rocked the college basketball world.
Duke says they are aware of the allegations and are investigating matters.
“We are aware of the allegation and, as we would with any compliance matter, are looking into it. Duke is fully committed to compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations,” Duke AD Kevin White wrote in a statement to The Chronicle. “Every student athlete at Duke is reviewed to ensure their eligibility. With regard to men’s basketball: all recruits and their families are thoroughly vetted by Duke in collaboration with the NCAA through the Eligibility Center’s amateurism certification process.”
Nike says they will not respond to Avenatti’s claims.
“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion and aid in his disgraceful attempts to distract from the athletes on the court at the height of the tournament. Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case,” the apparel company said in a statement via Dan Wetzel.
Avenatti continues to assert that Nike is guilty.
“Nike is guilty of rampant criminal conduct in bribing players for years and has been striving for weeks now to distract away from their bribery and fraud perpetrated at the highest levels. They knew they could not keep it secret any longer so they lied to the government and enlisted them in their scheme. If I’m lying about what Nike has done, why don’t they deny the bribery? They are guilty as hell.”
In case you are unfamiliar with how these bribery schemes work, sneaker companies have a lot to gain in sales through brand exposure. They sponsor college programs as part of their marketing, and being linked to star athletes and winning programs helps their brand and sales. Some companies believe that if they can bribe top high school athletes to play for college programs they sponsor, they will have a lot to gain. They also are attempting to build relationships with these athletes in case they become stars in the pros. A star player like Zion is extremely attractive to these companies; fans will want to buy Williamson’s gear, which is why so many companies are competing to sign him as he enters the NBA.