Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

The Sports Media Is Doing Nike’s Damage Control For Free

Illustration for article titled The Sports Media Is Doing Nike’s Damage Control For Free
Photo: Chuck Burton (AP)

Last night college basketball fans were treated to a comeback that, just a few weeks ago, seemed impossible. I’m talking, of course, about Nike shoes. We were all rooting for that scrappy little outfit out of Beaverton, Oregon, to overcome the odds, AMIRITE? Sure, Duke supernova Zion Williamson returned to the court and went 13-13 from the field. BUT WHAT ABOUT HIS SHOES, MAN? I think we can all agree that faceless shoe manufacturers were the real heroes last night. Just ask SportsCenter

Or Bleacher Report...


Or Pete Thamel, taking time out from his normal duties as NCAA swag cop to put on his best Darren Rovell outfit and shart out a breathless missive of poorly disguised sponcon…

Ah yes, the bromance between a filthy rich autocrat coach and a billion-dollar company built on the kind of working conditions you’d find in a Roald Dahl novel. Real heartwarming shit.

“The shoes were incredible in this game,” (Williamson) said after Duke’s comfortable 84-72 victory over Syracuse… Krzyzewski said Nike sent “their top people” to Durham the next day to figure out what went wrong with the shoe. That Nike crew then went to China to explore making a more “supportive” shoe.


I assume that effort by Nike entailed screaming “MAKE A BETTER SHOE YOU FUCKING MAGGOTS” to underpaid factory laborers. Again, super bromantic.

Anyway, you were probably aware that Williamson first injured his knee when his original pair of Nike kicks went the full Mick Shrimpton and spontaneously exploded when he made a cut on the floor during a game against North Carolina (NOTE: Duke lost!). Nike, which pays Duke an undisclosed sum to use its apparel but doesn’t have to pay Williamson for the privilege, “suffered” some bad PR after the incident, despite Williamson’s injury not denting their sales and effecting a slight and only-temporary drop in stock price.


It is thus unsurprising, but still depressing, to watch ESPN and Thamel and other joints gleefully aid Nike in overcoming this little PR booboo. I bet Nike was counting on these guys to help them out. And why not? Their workers carry the literal water; Thamel carries it metaphorically. Look at him credulously allow Krzyzewski, who personally profits handsomely from Nike’s sponsorship, to blame Williamson’s injury mostly on Williamson:

Krzyzewski pointed out that Williamson will change out his sneakers more often. He said Zion was wearing them too many games, which led to wear and tear.

“I think that contributed to that blow out,” Krzyzewski said.

Awwww, so sweet of Coach K. With just a little more screaming and abuse, maybe he can treat his own players as shabbily as Nike treats your feet. After all, who’s gonna question Krzyzewski if he does? Thamel? Dickie V? I don’t think so. All of those toadies are more than happy to shine Coach K’s still-intact shoes and lap up whatever puddles of hair dye he leaves on the sideline (don’t slip, Zion!). They’ll always be ready to prop him, and Nike, up if they should fall. It costs Coach K nothing to shit on Williamson, but it would cost him plenty to shit on his Nike sugar daddies. That’s how he ends up blaming a college freshman for his own freakish injury.


Last night should have been entirely about Zion Williamson coming back and playing brilliantly, for free, for a school and a coach to which he owes very little. Instead, ESPN and other joints used last night to provide free, needless closure to one of their biggest advertisers; manufacturing a happy ending for Nike despite the fact that their sneakers sometimes explode and sometimes crash. They went ahead and glossed over Nike’s original transgression like the Times burying a vital correction on page Z87, and it won’t be the last time they offer gratis damage control to a company that doesn’t deserve any. Nothing they or Nike say should blunt your skepticism. They’ll all corrupt shitbags, always ready to aid one another in shitbaggery.

Also, fuck Duke.

Drew Magary is a Deadspin columnist and columnist for GEN magazine. You can buy Drew's second novel, The Hike, through here.

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