Nike Permanently Cuts Ties with Hockey Canada

Nike (NYSE: NKE) has made the decision to permanently end its sponsorship deal with Hockey Canada in response to the controversy surrounding the organization’s handling of sexual assault allegations and settlement payouts. 

The sports apparel giant was among a number of major partners, including Esso, Telus, Canadian Tire, Scotiabank, Chevrolet Canada and Tim Hortons, that withdrew their support for Hockey Canada’s men’s programs in the 2022-23 season.

“Nike is no longer a sponsor of Hockey Canada,” a company statement issued Monday said. 

“We will continue to provide on-ice product for Hockey Canada athletes as part of our partnership with the International Ice Hockey Federation, but our individual partnership with the federation has ended.”

Nike had been a premier sponsor of Hockey Canada since 1999.

The Hockey Canada scandal

The scandal emerged in May 2022 when a woman filed a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court, alleging that she was sexually assaulted by eight players, including members of Canada’s World Junior team, in a hotel room during a Hockey Canada Foundation event in June 2018. The lawsuit was settled before a full investigation into the allegations was completed, prompting widespread criticism and calls for leadership changes within the organization.

As part of its efforts to restore its tarnished image, Hockey Canada made several changes at the top. The entire board of directors resigned in October, along with interim chair Andrea Skinner, and CEO Scott Smith also stepped down. A new board of directors, including retired judge Hugh Fraser as chair, was appointed, and governance changes recommended in an independent report were implemented.

The situation caused significant financial strain for Hockey Canada, with senior vice president Pat McLaughlin revealing in a parliamentary hearing that the organization was expected to lose up to $24 million from discontinued sponsorships. However, the Canadian federal government reinstated funding to Hockey Canada with certain conditions in April.

New leadership

Hockey Canada’s fortunes took a positive turn when it hired former Curling Canada CEO Katherine Henderson as its new president and CEO. Following her appointment, equipment brand Bauer also reinstated its partnership with the organization, expressing its commitment to supporting Hockey Canada in building a strategic plan that prioritizes inclusion and restores trust.

Following the leadership change, Chevrolet Canada, according to a report from CBC News, is still evaluating whether to reinstate its deal.

“We are evaluating our direct sponsorship with Hockey Canada to ensure this organization, under its new leadership, fits with our values,” director of communications for General Motors Canada Natalie Nankil said in a statement.

Canadian Tire, meanwhile, decided to walk away from the federation for good in October last year. 

In response to Nike’s decision, Hockey Canada spokesperson Esther Madziya wrote in a statement that the organization respects Nike’s decision. She also said that they are “open to exploring opportunities” with new partners.

“Hockey Canada is always open to exploring opportunities with new strategic partners who share a common vision that ensures our sport is safe, inclusive and provides opportunities for all who wish to play the game, and we continue to engage in encouraging discussions with current partners,” she wrote.

Information for this story was found via The Globe and Mail, CBC News, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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