Nike’s longtime former tennis director has slammed the corporate’s break up with tennis legend Roger Federer.
Federer left Nike in 2018 after 24 years, signing a $300 million 10-year contract with Japanese clothes chain Uniqlo.
It was a quantity Nike felt was past its attain for a tennis participant, however now Mike Nakajima — who labored with stars like John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi earlier than Nike signed Federer as a 13-year-old — has damaged ranks.
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“That ought to by no means have occurred. For us to let any person like that go, it’s an atrocity,” Nakajima instructed the authors of the e book The Roger Federer Impact.
“Roger Federer belonged with Nike for the remainder of his profession. Similar to Michael Jordan. Like LeBron James, like Tiger Woods. He’s proper up there with the all-time biggest Nike athletes ever. I’m nonetheless disillusioned. Nevertheless it occurred. I’ve to recover from it. It wasn’t my determination and I wasn’t there for it.”
Nakajima left Nike a 12 months earlier than Federer to begin his personal enterprise however stays linked to Nike as his spouse, brother and considered one of his sons work there, per CNN.
He stated Nike already had the mannequin on how you can strategy Federer’s non-playing years due to what they’d finished with basketball legend Jordan. And he didn’t blame the 20-time grand slam winner for accepting Uniqlo’s supply.
“Roger goes to be wonderful. So I’m pleased for him. I most likely would have finished the identical factor if I had been in the identical boat. Who may need turned down a $30 million a 12 months contract? Nevertheless it ought to have by no means gotten to that time,” Nakajima stated.
“Nike remains to be promoting thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of pairs of Jordans. When’s the final time Michael performed? It’s been many, a few years. They may have finished the identical factor for Roger. For years to return, they might have created sneakers with an RF brand.”
Within the e book, Nakajima describes how Nike struck lightning in a bottle with the younger Swiss participant.
“He was up-and-coming, one of many high juniors,” Nakajima stated. “We introduced him on and I realised proper off the bat that he’s naturally charismatic and speaks properly. And I observed that he knew he was going to be nice.”
Regardless of that interior confidence, Federer grew to become probably the most universally admired athletes in historical past.
“Folks like to hate profitable individuals. They’re jealous. Nevertheless it all the time astounds me that nobody ever says something damaging about Roger,” Nakajima stated.
“Due to the best way he portrays himself to others, he’s beloved by others. He treats others respectfully, he is aware of the viewers and might modify his dialog based mostly on his viewers. He is aware of how you can discuss to grown-ups and children.
“I’ve had an occasion the place he was imagined to be there an hour and was there for 4 hours. 4 hours! Who does that? He is aware of that these are the those that watch him play. These are the individuals which might be giving him sponsorships. He will get it.”
As for the opposite members of tennis’ large three — Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal — Nakajima says they’ll by no means match Federer’s recognition.
“(Djokovic) might properly be probably the most profitable tennis participant ever. However there’s all the time a darkish cloud round him,” he stated.
“It’s like he brings it upon himself. He hits the lineswoman on the US Open and will get disqualified? It occurs, I assume.
“However why does it all the time occur to Novak? Or the entire controversy concerning the Covid-19 vaccination. Now, as a model: do I need to be behind any person who all the time has controversy round him? Or do I need to go along with an athlete with a squeaky clear picture?”
Nakajima stated any distinction between Federer and Nadal was largely right down to intent.
“I’m unsure Rafa needs to be the highest-paid endorser on this planet. I don’t assume he cares,” he stated.
“Rafa is Rafa, he has finished extraordinarily properly and I don’t assume he wants anything. Roger wished to be marketed, so he appealed to completely different manufacturers, audiences and shopper teams. And his administration firm’s finished a tremendous job.”