The news came out today that Johnny Football could be getting dropped by Nike. Nike is one of Manziel’s biggest endorsement partners, but with Manziel’s recent behavior and lack of direction with his career it could make the former first round pick expendable. The immediate reaction would be because Manziel can’t behave himself off the field, Nike is worried about its brand and the value of the current agreement. The problem with that line of thinking is Nike has stood by former athletes who have had larger PR problems.
Nike still works with Tiger Woods and although his issues are now in the past, the reports of his off-field transgressions were tabloid fodder to say the least. Nike also didn’t end its relationship with Lance Armstrong until it was pretty obvious to everyone involved that his doping denials were almost completely fabricated. In both cases, and in many smaller profile situations, Nike will stood by its athletes through their off the field problems. It’s why a lot of athletes respect and admire the company.
Manziel’s relationship is only in jeopardy because of his lack of success on the field. If Manziel came in this past year and dominated, this wouldn’t be a discussion. With the chances the Browns cut Manziel, at best he will most likely be in a back-up situation — the Cowboys have been mentioned as a destination. It’s tough to pay endorsement money to a back-up, especially one that is having off-field issues and is followed consistently by TMZ. But make no mistake about it, it is Manziel’s performance that has put this deal in jeopardy. It is not just his trips to Vegas.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.