The Duke Blue Devils fell to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels last night in their first of two matchups of the regular season that began with a major injury after just the first 36 seconds of the first half of the basketball game.
Duke’s freshman phenom Zion Williamson suffered from what is now known to be a knee sprain while trying to make a cut, but the move also had another bizarre outcome — the phenom’s left Nike PG2.5 shoe completely split open, revealing his sock-covered foot to all of Cameron Indoor Stadium as well as the thousands watching at home.
As noted by Business Insider, social media users were quick to place blame on Nike, who not only provides the footwear, but also the jerseys and equipment for the Blue Devils.
“Get well soon @ZionW32 :/ @Nike we want an apology,” one Twitter user wrote shortly after the incident happened.
Rapper Juicy J got in on the jabs as well, writing that the shoes would not be “Nike’s anymore it Yike’s!!”
The company is facing another unfortunate reaction, as the company’s stock (NKE) was down more than 1 percent on Thursday, February 21, in the game’s aftermath, according to CNN Business. Analysts attribute the fall to the shoe busting injury that leaves the fate of the presumptive top NBA draft pick of the year up in the air.
Me returning my Nikes tomorrow after seeing Zion's shoe explode. pic.twitter.com/EnNqjV32Ks— Juan Calderon (@juancalderon) February 21, 2019
The company quickly released a statement regarding the situation to assure fans of both the team and the brand that they were looking into the incident.
“The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance,” the company said. “While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”
The aftermath of Zion's shoe ???? pic.twitter.com/YYnMyrlChT— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2019
The Nike brand places a high importance on deals with star athletes and top professional and college programs, with 85 men’s and women’s basketball teams being sponsored by the brand during last year’s annual NCAA tournaments. As noted by CNN Business, the company’s annual security filing warned against negative claims and publicity from both key endorsers and sponsors as well as social media in regards to their reputation.
???????? Nike's stock has gone down 1.41% after Duke Basketball star Zion Williamson's PG 2.5 Sneakers fell apart and he sprained his knee...— The Sportsman (@TheSportsman) February 21, 2019
That would equate to $1.48 Billion lost from an 18-year-old injuring himself! pic.twitter.com/Xlk7ff3jjM
Luckily, analysts don’t see the freak accident from last night’s highly anticipated rivalry basketball game to have done too much damage to the brand.
“This is embarrassing for Nike, but will have no material impact on the business,” NPD Group analyst Matt Powell said.
Meanwhile, others have given their suggestions as to some of the moves the company could make to ensure their reputation stays intact.
“Nike is a massive brand and has tremendous power,” said Washington University in St. Louis’s sports business director Patrick Rishe, who also called the sneaker damage a freak accident. “If they’re smart, they’ll reach out to Zion and have him wear their shoes again.”