words // Brandon Richard
If you're an athlete signed to Nike, now is a good time to stay out of trouble.
Earlier today, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon 'Bones' Jones took part in a disciplinary hearing in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The hearing was in regard to a brawl that broke out between himself and Daniel Cormier during a UFC 178 media day appearance in Las Vegas last month. In his testimony, Jones admitted that the brawl has already cost him lucrative opportunities, including his six-figure endorsement deal with Nike.
"I've lost a very big endorsement of mine, one of my biggest," Jones told the NSAC. "My Nike deal."
Over time, the pre-fight brawl has become part of the spectacle in combat sports. Typically, fighters do a little jaw jacking, get in a shove or two and things are “broken up.” However, Jones and Cormier have genuine hatred for each other, and they couldn’t be stopped in Vegas.
Jones later pulled out of the fight, which was originally scheduled for this weekend, due to injury.
While the brawl clearly caused an uproar, dropping a fighter for fighting seems a bit over the top. Could other factors have played into the decision? In 2012, Jones plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated. That incident, combined with recent troubles with NFL athletes and Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, may have convinced Nike that it was time to pull the plug on the partnership.
Nike has a history of standing by athletes during times of adversity. Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods are among the star athletes that have maintained a working relationship with the brand in the midst of PR disasters. Nike was also squarely behind Lance Armstrong until he finally admitted to doping last year. The new age of transparency and social media may be forcing the company to change the way they go about dealing with their partners.
Do you think the dropping of Jones is justified? Was it just the brawl or a culmination of events? Either way, if a brawl is the tipping point, perhaps combat sports is no longer an avenue worth exploring for Nike.
Jones reacts to losing his Nike deal below: