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Nike inks deal through 2040 to sponsor U.S. Track and Field

Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight has had to deal with allegations that Nike influences how rules are applied by the USATF because of its 23 year sponsorship of the organization, which will now continue through 2040. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight has dealt with allegations that Nike influences how rules are applied by the USATF. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Nike signed a deal on Wednesday that will keep it the sponsor of USA Track & Field (USATF) through 2040, though terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

USATF spokeswoman Jill Geer told Sara Germano of The Wall Street Journal that the deal is a combination of "cash and value in kind." Nike has sponsored USATF since 1991 and Greer said it supported approximately half their $19 million budget in 2013. Their current deal together was set to expire in 2017.

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The deal prompted various track and field stars to chime in with their thoughts, with a particular focus on the length of the deal. The 2004 Olympic shot put champion, Adam Nelson, said the contract through 2040 is impressive because it will help show that the sport is worthy of a long-term investment. Others were less encouraged by the deal; Lauren Fleshman, a 5,000 meter national champion, said the length and exclusivity of the deal will make it more difficult for other potential sponsors to enter the arena and could ultimately negatively impact the ability for athletes to secure funding.

The deal on Wednesday comes as concerns grow about the partnership that will be in effect for 49 years once it comes up for renewal in 2040. U.S. track and field athletes have recently threatened a collective action against USATF for reversing a decision to disqualify an athlete at a national meet in February for allegedly interfering with opponents who were headed up by a Nike-sponsored coach, Alberto Salazar. The collective action sought to show that Nike was allegedly influencing the application of rules by USATF.

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