(CBS News) Nike suspended its deal with Oscar Pistorius this week, after the South African track star was charged with murdering his girlfriend. He's the latest athlete in the Nike stable to be tainted by scandal. That's leading some to ask if there's a "Nike curse." But could it be a curse of riches?
Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, and Lance Armstrong: they are some of the biggest names in sports -- and besides a scandalous fall from grace, they all have one thing in common: that Nike "swoosh."
One would think that all the bad press would make Nike shy away from its celebrity endorsers, but over time, the $25 billion corporation has done just the opposite.
Forbes senior editor Kurt Badenhausen, who covers the sports industry, says Nike is the victim of its own success. "Sticking by these big-name guys can potentially still be good for business," he said. "... Nike endorses so many athletes that if one of them does get in trouble, chances are, it's going to be a Nike guy."
Nike has $4 billion in endorsement contracts with athletes in many different sports, and the bigger the star, the less likely they are to sever ties.
Badenhausen said, "They've built a golf division from scratch with Tiger Woods. And now it's a $700-something-million business for Nike. It's hard to just kick Tiger to the side and say, 'We're done with you, we're going to move on now.' And I think that's why you saw them stick with Lance Armstrong for so long."
Even when Nike moves on from an athlete, it leaves the door slightly ajar. In 2007, Nike dumped Michael Vick in the midst of the dog fighting scandal, but they re-signed him when he regained his popularity in 2011.
But Pistorius might not be so lucky, since Nike may simply not view him as a big enough star. Badenhausen said, "I think Nike has seen the last of Oscar Pistorious."
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