April 1, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said Nike will no longer be able to sell their shoes in the US for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic. A large percentage of Nike shoes are manufactured in and shipped from China, the source of the virus currently plaguing the world. In particular, the CDC blamed high sales of the controversial Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly shoes for helping to spread the virus.
In a press release, the CDC said, “It’s no secret that Nike is the leading shoe brand in the United States and it’s just a fact that a large percentage of their products come from China. We are still investigating the issue, but we don’t think it’s a coincidence that the rise in coronavirus cases worldwide was preceded by a dramatic increase in sales of their Vaporfly and Alphafly shoe line. It is for this reason that effective April 1, 2020, we are blocking the sales of all Nike shoes in the United States.”
The statement went on to say that the ban would not be permanent, but that it could last up to a year and that Nike would have to turn over all its current stock to be quarantined. Asked if Nike was going to face any legal action, a CDC spokesperson said that was highly unlikely.
“While we feel confident this ban will help slow the spread of the virus, we don’t think Nike is directly to blame for the virality of their shoes sales. However, doing things like giving away hundreds of free shoes at last month’s US Olympic Marathon Trials was foolish to say the least. While we don’t attribute any malfeasance to Nike, it’s certainly an instance of gross negligence on their part.”
As of right now, the ban on Nike shoes only applies to the US, but other countries are expected to follow suit. With no clear deadline on how long the ban will last, it’s possible this could mean a de facto ban from the Olympic Games. We reached out to Seb Coe for comment and he responded saying, “The guidelines World Athletics put in place earlier this year are very clear. For a shoe to be legal it must have been available for purchase in retail stores for at least four months prior to competition. The Tokyo Games will begin in July of next year, so if Nike shoes aren’t back on the shelves by March, they won’t be legal to wear in the Games.”
What effect this will have on Nike-sponsored athletes and what actions Nike will take remain yet to be seen. Nike co-founder Phil Knight was not available for comment, but industry insiders expect Nike to shift their manufacturing away from China in hopes of shortening the ban on their shoe sales. However, doing this effectively enough to get the Vaporfly and Alphafly back on store shelves in less than a year may be a tall order.