CHICAGO (Reuters) - Nike Inc Chairman and co-founder Phil Knight said the scandal surrounding Tiger Woods is “part of the game” in signing endorsement deals with athletes and did not back away from the athletic shoe and clothing maker’s relationship with the golfer.
Woods, 33, has admitted to “infidelity” in his marriage to his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren as allegations of multiple extra-marital affairs have rocked his life and career.
Knight told Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal that Nike checked out Woods’ background before signing its deal with the golfer and “he came out clean.”
Knight’s comments were published following Woods’ surprise announcement on Friday that he would take an “indefinite break” from pro golf.
Knight said companies cannot get such background checks right all the time and “there’s always a risk.” However, he signaled no move to distance Woods from Nike, which has founded its global golf business on Woods’ reputation and play.
“I think he’s been really great,” Knight said in the interview published on Monday. “When his career is over, you’ll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now.”
Other sponsors have distanced themselves from Woods.
On Sunday, technology outsourcing and consulting firm Accenture Plc ended its endorsement deal with Woods, a day after Procter & Gamble’s Gillette said it would limit the use of Woods in its marketing. AT&T Inc has said it is evaluating its relationship.
Woods, the world’s first billionaire athlete, is estimated to earn about $100 million a year in endorsement deals.
Other sponsors include PepsiCo Inc’s Gatorade, Electronic Arts Inc, TLC Vision Corp, Upper Deck, Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s NetJets and Tag Heuer.
Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Dave Zimmerman