Nike suspends Oscar Pistorius contract
February 21, 2013 - 1:37:59 pm
LONDON: Nike has suspended its contract with Oscar Pistorius, a spokesman for the US sportswear giant said Thursday as the South African Paralympics star fights charges of murdering his girlfriend.
The firm is the latest in a series of corporate giants to halt endorsements which have earned the so-called "Blade Runner" millions of dollars in recent years.
"Nike has suspended its contract with Oscar Pistorius," the firm's UK and Ireland spokesman told AFP.
"We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely."
Seen worldwide as an inspirational athlete, 26-year-old Pistorius, who has both legs amputated below the knee, is linked to several sponsors.
He is facing murder charges over the Valentine's Day shooting of his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in South Africa.
Pistorius, who became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in the Olympics at the 2012 London Games, says he shot Steenkamp by mistake through a locked bathroom door, believing she was a burglar.
Pistorius earned millions of dollars in endorsements but the murder charge saw billboards featuring his image being taken down soon after the news broke.
An advert for Nike that showed Pistorius setting off from the starting blocks with the line "I am the bullet in the chamber" has been removed from the runner's personal website.
A Nike spokesman in the United States confirmed on Tuesday that the sporting goods and apparel manufacturer had "no plans for Oscar Pistorius in upcoming campaigns".
Golf icon Tiger Woods, another Nike-backed athlete, retained their endorsement during his infamous sex scandal when other sponsors severed ties with the then-married father-of-two.
US sunglasses maker Oakley has already suspended its contract with Pistorius.
"In light of the recent allegations, Oakley is suspending its contract with Oscar Pistorius, effective immediately," the company said in a statement.
And French cosmetics firm Clarins said Wednesday it was dropping an advertising campaign featuring the 26-year-old.
Pistorius had featured since 2011 in advertisements for the "A*Men" fragrance of the Thierry Mugler brand, part of the Clarins group.
Pistorius is the world's biggest-earning Paralympic athlete.
The accumulative total of Pistorius' earnings from sponsors, which accounts for much of his income, was reportedly $4.7 million (3.5 million euros), according to the Financial Times newspaper.
Speaking earlier this week, leading British public relations guru Max Clifford said suspending deals with Pistorius was the only safe option for big-name sponsors.
"They will want to disappear a million miles," he told AFP.
"You're not going to be sponsoring someone who is allegedly a murderer.
"I think most sponsors will be saying everything is kind of suspended until we know the truth, which is the only safe thing they can do.
"They don't want to be seen to be backing someone who potentially could be convicted of murder."
Pistorius was in court in Pretoria on Thursday for the third day of a bail hearing. (AFP)