Culture

Kate Grace Signs With Nike As An Unexpected Sponsor

She was the first athlete to join Oiselle and her former sponsor is known for speaking out against Nike. So what happens next?

Photo via instagram.com/fastkate
Photo via instagram.com/fastkate

We recently shared the news that Oiselle’s original athlete—Kate Grace—was leaving the flock for a new sponsor, who at the time was unknown.

Well, her new sponsor was revealed at this weekend’s UW Invite and it was a huge surprise to the running community. Kate Grace is officially a Nike-sponsored athlete.

What’s the big deal?

You may be wondering, What’s the big deal? If you follow the politics within our sport, the big deal comes with a look back at her roots at Oiselle, a company that has not only gone on to sign two former Nike athletes who have bravely spoken out about doping allegations and mistreatment of athletes—Kara Goucher and Lauren Fleshman. But also, their CEO has been a huge proponent against Nike’s dominance in the world of running.

Bergesen has said of Nike: “What gets me is that when you put all the pieces together, and look at Nike as a business (how and where they make their money), the deal is this: Nike doesn’t need track & field to thrive. And in fact, in terms of warding off competition, it’s better off keeping the sport small and hooked up to the Beaverton life support system. This preserves their control of track & field’s past (the waffle shoe!), present (any national or major event), and future (’til death do us part, or 2040, whichever comes first).”

That isn’t the only time she has been vocal about the issue; she has spoken on NPR about Rule 40—a blackout period near the Olympics that makes it so athletes can’t wear the apparel or logos of any non-Olympics sponsor—as well as many other athletes, and Outside introduced her to its readers as the woman who is taking on Nike.

Kate Grace’s Response

Grace has been catching a lot of flack on social media from fans of the sport wondering how she could make the move and what it says about her relationship with Oiselle.

She answered back with a series of tweets, stating: “[My] last contract had an end point, that’s what it means to be a contractor not employee. [I]’ll assume that most sponsorships in this career will have a written end date. [N]ot consider it being dropped. [U]ntil that time, I’m a pro…up to me to negotiate sponsorships that I am happy with, to support my training. [I]’m grateful to athletes rights advocates who have spoken up, about what to ask for in contracts to protect yourself and I understand the differing opinions. [J]ust trying to do me.”

Bergesen and Oiselle have yet to make a statement, though fans have called for one via social media. Members of the team did cheer on Grace, however, as she returned to Seattle recently to race. It is yet to be seen how this sponsorship move will affect Oiselle. We definitely do not fault Grace for making what she feels was best decision for her career in order to run for years to come and look forward to seeing so many good things from her! We will be interested to see what happens in the future between Grace, Oiselle and Nike, if anything.