Read this LetsRun article about Nike global director of athletics John Capriotti, red-faced and trailing a retinue of Nike lackeys, threatening to kill Brooks coach Danny Mackey for unknown reasons, and toss lightly with this episode of Alberto Salazar, red-faced and trailing a retinue of Nike lackeys, and you get a spicy salad of institutional Nike aggression.
Nike has been a big toad in the small pond of track and field for so long, and they’ve been getting away with this behavior for so long, they fail to see it as startlingly inappropriate. Here’s an excerpt from the Bully 101 playbook, as reported by LetsRun:
This is not the first time Capriotti has threatened someone within the sport, according to our sources. Every source interviewed for this story stated that they had either been threatened by Capriotti themselves or heard of others being threatened, but several of the sources chose to remain anonymous and not share specific anecdotes out of fear of what Capriotti could do to their careers.
“I’ve heard so many accounts of athletes, agents and meet directors getting treated like absolute dogshit,” said a source who works in the running industry with elite athletes. “I kind of wish all the agents would band together and say something…but because of the stranglehold he has on people’s paychecks, people won’t talk.”
“[Capriotti’s behavior at USAs] was not safe and it’s not smart,” said another source who works with athletes sponsored by shoe companies other than Nike. “He’s done this to a lot of people and everyone’s scared to say anything.”
“Someone who used to work at Nike kind of came up with the analogy that they operate like the mafia,” said a third source who has dealt with Nike in the past. “They will use any kind of pressure they can to get what they want. I’m not saying it’s anything illegal but using any kind of leverage they have.”
Indeed, Nike pours more money into the sport than anyone else. In Oregon alone, Nike sponsors three high-profile teams — the Nike Oregon Project, Bowerman Track Club and the Oregon Track Club. Nike also has a sponsorship deal that pays USATF approximately $20 million per year through 2040 for the right to produce the Team USA jersey.
“I would say that whoever is in [Capriotti’s office] is a very, very powerful figure in track and field because they control so many dollars in the sport,” said Nick Symmonds, who is sponsored by Brooks (and was sponsored by Nike for eight years). “Having that kind of control is powerful. I don’t know what [Capriotti] was referring to when he makes threats. I’m not sure why he does that or what background he has to be able to do that, but Nike’s a powerful corporation. Very powerful.”
Certainly, we’ve seen bad behavior like this before—it abrades the imagination to think of a sport in which it hasn’t happened. Being an ass is its own reward, as Capriotti will discover. Left to his own carbuncle-like ways, he will burst and drain in a manner more repugnant than any restraining order could devise. His wife’s lawyers will make his life a living hell, his balls will ache, his colon will hurt at night, he’ll soil his clothes involuntarily, he’ll have no friends and he’ll become lactose intolerant. That’s the best possible scenario. I’m just saying, assholes get their due, whether it’s in a court of law or not.