Nike will not provide cleats, or, “boots,” as they’re known in soccer parlance, to Iran’s 2018 FIFA World Cup team, citing the Trump administration’s imposition of sanctions against the Middle Eastern country, CNBC is reporting.
International soccer has often been, perhaps regretfully, a place where political tensions play out, although the U.S. has largely stayed out of it. However, now that the Trump administration has imposed economic sanctions against Iran, Nike, whose soccer boots are worn by an estimated 60 percent of the players competing in this year’s World Cup, has chosen not to provide the Iranian side with footwear.
It’s not just Nike that is reluctant to sponsor the Iranian side. Adidas, headquartered in Germany, has provided the team’s uniforms at “steep discounts,” but has stopped short of officially sponsoring them, also citing international sanctions. Similarly, in advance of the most recent FIFA World Cup, in 2014, Adidas declined to provide any equipment to the Iranian team.
It bears noting that Nike, and other manufacturers of athletic equipment, don’t appear to mind equipping Iranian players when they’re on the field for their regular teams. For example, Saman Ghoddos, who was born in Sweden to Iranian parents, and who plays for a Swedish team during the regular season, is sponsored by Nike. It’s unclear how, if at all, Nike’s decision will affect him after he returns to his regular squad.
Meanwhile, Iran is scheduled to open up against Morocco in a week, and team manager Carlos Queiroz is asking FIFA to try to force Nike’s hand. He says it’s about the players being comfortable in their own shoes, literally.
“Players get used to their sports equipment and it’s not right to change them a week before such important matches.”
Similarly, the National Iranian American Council, in a statement to CNBC, bemoaned how the decision will affect Iranians in the U.S. who want to root for the home team.
“Nike is dragging politics back into the picture and souring what should be a global celebration. Nike was an outspoken opponent of Trump’s Muslim ban that targets Iranians, yet now here they are helping enforce this new shameful policy against Iranians.”
This is hardly the first time political tensions have played out in the sports arena. During the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Samsung, based in South Korea, declined to provide commemorative cell phones to North Korean and Iranian athletes, citing international sanctions on luxury goods going to either nation.