Sports brands Nike, Under Armour throw support behind protesting NBA players

FILE PHOTO: Time celebrates its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, in New York
FILE PHOTO: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson poses upon arriving for the Time 100 Gala celebrating Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in New York, U.S., April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

August 28, 2020

By Aishwarya Venugopal, Sheila Dang and Nivedita Balu

(Reuters) – Major sportswear brands Under Armour Inc and Nike Inc said on Thursday they support boycotts by professional athletes who refused to play following the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin.

Under Armour and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on Thursday postponed the launch of a new sneaker collaboration, and said in a statement: “We support all of those in sport who are currently demanding societal change across the United States and the globe.”

Nike said in a statement on Thursday that it “stands in support of NBA and WNBA players and athletes across the sports community in their response to the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake.”

The displays of support come after the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks boycotted Game 5 of their playoff series on Wednesday in solidarity with those protesting police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, about 40 miles (60 km) south of Milwaukee.

That led the National Basketball Association to postpone all three playoff games on Wednesday and three more on Thursday. The boycott to protest racial injustice also rippled to the Women’s National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that NBA players had agreed not to boycott the rest of the season.

Protests have been widespread after Blake was shot in the back seven times at close range by a white police officer on Sunday. It was the latest in a string of killings of unarmed Black men and women in the United States by police and others over the past few years

NBA stars including LeBron James and Steph Curry have lucrative shoe endorsement deals with companies like Nike and Under Armour.

Nike rival Adidas on Wednesday tweeted, “We support all players and coaches across sport who are using their platforms to demand justice. Black lives matter.”

Sports beverage brand Gatorade on Wednesday retweeted a statement from the Milwaukee Bucks and added “This is bigger than sport. #BlackLivesMatter.”

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Bernard Orr and Bill Berkrot)