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Sports Shorts: Nike panned after basketball star's shoe splits

Last updated on: February 22, 2019 20:50 IST

Summary of sports events and persons who made news on Friday

 Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts after falling during the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday

IMAGE: Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts after falling during the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday. Photograph: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

A Nike Inc sneaker worn by a college basketball superstar split in half less than a minute into a highly anticipated game between DukeUniversity and North Carolina, prompting an outcry on social media as the company sought to figure out what caused the problem.

Zion Williamson, a 6-foot-7-inch freshman forward for the Duke Blue Devils who is anticipated to be the top 2019 NBA Draft pick, suffered a mild sprain to his right knee because of the incident on Wednesday night, according to his coach Mike Krzyzewski.

 

The official Duke Basketball Twitter handle (@DukeMBB) tweeted Thursday evening that Zion was "progressing as expected, and his status is day-to-day."

A closeup video replay showed Williamson slipping and crumpling to the ground, clutching his knee in pain. His left shoe is seen split in half, with part of the sole ripped off the base of the sneaker.

Williamson did not return to play in the match-up, which ended with No. 1-ranked Duke losing 72-88 to the No. 8-ranked Tar Heels team.

"We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery," Nike said in a statement. "The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue."

Shares of the sportswear maker closed down 1 percent on Thursday, a day after the incident, wiping off some $1.46 billion from Nike's market capitalization since Wednesday's close.

Oppenheimer analyst Brian Nagel said in a note that he was optimistic "any lasting damage to the company and its shares will prove minimal."

Williamson was wearing the Nike PG 2.5 basketball shoe when he was injured, Nike confirmed to Reuters in an email. The line of sneakers, launched in summer of 2018, sells for $95-$105 on Nike's website.

The shoe received mixed reviews and a rating of 4 out of 5 stars on Nike.com as of Thursday.

Nike is Duke's exclusive supplier of uniforms, shoes and apparel under a 12-year contract that was extended in 2015 and has had an exclusive deal with the private university since 1992, ESPN reported.

Nike's latest quarterly results showed signs of a rebound as it speeds up new product launches and expands partnerships with online retailers. The Beaverton, Oregon-based company has forecast sales growth for 2019 approaching low double-digits.

Williamson, who averaged 21.6 points a game, has been tipped as the "next Lebron James" and is expected to be selected first in the NBA Draft this June.

Krzyzewski said it was unclear how long Williamson would be out because of the injury.

Former President Barack Obama, director Spike Lee and star NFL running back Todd Gurley attended Wednesday's game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the home court of the Blue Devils.

A video from the match posted on Twitter showed Obama sitting courtside, expressing shock and mouthing the words, "his shoe broke!"

The incident lit up social media, with celebrities and some of basketball's biggest stars expressing shock and dismay.

"Hope young fella is ok!" tweeted LeBron James (@KingJames) on Wednesday. "Literally blew thru his [shoe]," he added, using a shoe emoji.

"Again let's remember all the money that went into this game.... and these players get none of it," Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell), a former first-round NBA draft pick and current guard for the Utah Jazz, tweeted on Wednesday. "And now Zion gets hurt... something has to change."

Nike's social media sentiment dropped following the malfunction, according to social media analytics firm Zoomph. With 1.6 billion impressions and a reach of 170 million users, people were twice as likely to express negative sentiment about the athletic apparel maker, Zoomph data showed.

This is not the first time Nike has faced controversy over the craftsmanship of its sportswear. In 2017, the company faced a backlash when several NBA jerseys worn by basketball stars, including James, ripped apart.

Sougou hands Mumbai play-off spot

Mumbai City FC

IMAGE: The win takes Mumbai to the third spot on the table with 30 points while ATK remain sixth. Photograph: ISL Media

A Moudou Sougou hat-trick was enough for Mumbai City FC to drub ATK 3-1 and confirm a spot in the Hero Indian Super League playoffs in Kolkata on Friday.

After three matches without a goal, Modou Sougou (26', 39', 60') returned to the scoresheet with an excellent performance. Andre Bikey headed in a consolation in the 67th minute, but the hosts could not find a way back into the game and are now out of the reckoning.

The win takes Mumbai to the third spot on the table with 30 points while ATK remain sixth.

A midfield battle ensued in the first half as both teams looked to keep possession of the ball. ATK started the half well but Mumbai soon stamped their authority, showing efficiency in the attacking third.

Pranjal Bhumij skipped past his marker on the left flank and crossed into the centre for Sougou in the 21st minute. The Senegalese's first touch took Arnab Mondal out of the equation, but Andre Bikey tackled the ball off his feet before the striker could find the net from close-range.

However, Sougou managed to get the better of the ATK defence in the 26th minute. Paulo Machado won the ball in Mumbai's half and initiated a counter-attack from the right. Bhumij received the ball forward and lobbed it behind the ATK defenders to find Sougou's run into the box and the striker placed the ball into the net past Arindam Bhattacharya.

Mumbai hit ATK with an incisive counter-attack yet again. Edu Garcia gave the ball away outside the Mumbai box and Souvik Chakrabarty released Issoko down the right flank in the 39th minute. The winger found Sougou in the center of the box with a delightful cross and the forward made no mistake from close-range to double Mumbai's lead.

ATK went close just before the break. Mumbai custodian Amrinder Singh was forced to pull off a finger-tip save to parry away Kalu Uche's shot from inside the box.

Uche had another chance but failed to beat Amrinder from close-range and allowed the defence to clear.

At the hour-mark, Paulo Machado released Sougou in behind the ATK defence and the Senegalese striker scored his 12th goal of the season with an emphatic finish to put the ball beyond the reach of Arindam.

ATK pushed players forward in search of a way back into the game. Pritam Kotal delivered a good cross into the centre of the box and Bikey's powerful header found the net in the 67th minute.

With no end product to show for their efforts, the hosts succumbed to a defeat at the hand of an efficient Mumbai who converted their chances.

India's Mushtaque Ahmad elected as Vice-President of AHF

India's Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad and Asima Ali were on Friday elected as the Vice-President and Executive Committee member of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) for a four-year term in Gifu, Japan.

Mushtaque Ahmad is currently serving as the President of Hockey India, while Ali is the Vice-President of the national federation.

Besides Ali, Mushtaque Ahmad too have now become a member of the AHF executive board.

The AHF Executive Board manages the affairs of the continental federation, implements the decisions of the AHF Congress, supervises over the AHF CEO and professional staff, as well as appoints the AHF Committees.

On its part, Hockey India congratulated both the individuals for their appointments to AHF.

"It is with immense joy that I wish President, Hockey India, Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad and Vice-President, Hockey India, Asima Ali, on being elected as members of the AHF Executive Board through their respective new positions," Hockey India Secretary General Rajinder Singh said in a statement. 

"Both Ahmad and Ali have worked tirelessly in Hockey India's endeavour to promote the sport across the country, and transform it into one of the most professionally managed federations in India."

Karate associations vent anger after Paris 2024 exclusion

Karate's exclusion from the Paris 2024 Olympic programme has been heavily criticised by the sport's governing body and various national associations after being left out of the list of four additional sports for the Games.

The world karate association said in a statement on Friday it was "deeply saddened" by the omission, revealed this week.

"We believed that we had met all the requirements and that we had the perfect conditions to be added to the sports programme; however, we have learned today that our dream will not be coming true," president Antonio Espinos said in a statement on the organisation's official website.

"France is one of the strongest countries in Karate. We had founded hopes to be in Paris 2024 due to the strength and popularity of our sport in France."

Karate, which is to make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, was absent from the list of four sports organisers recommended for the 2024 Summer Games, which included surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and breakdancing.

The association of Japan, which has won the most medals in the world karate championships, also condemned the move.

"This (announcement) came even before people were able to see karate at the Tokyo Olympics. This will bring the mood down ahead of Tokyo," said general secretary Shuji Kusaka.

The karate association of Spain, the fourth best performing nation of all time at the world championships, behind Japan, France and Great Britain, was also critical of the exclusion.

"Yesterday (Thursday) karate suffered a massive setback. The karate community feels sadness, frustration and above all impotence right now," said its statement.

"We will be at Tokyo 2020 at the highest level and we'll show the world that our sport is as worthy as others and we will show the Paris 2024 organising committee how wrong they are."

Kvitova downs Taiwan's Hsieh to reach Dubai final

Second seed Petra Kvitova recovered from a set down against Hsieh Su-wei to end the unseeded Taiwanese's run at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Friday with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory that saw the Czech reach her third final of the year.

Kvitova, who made an astute tactical adjustment midway through the match that changed the course of the contest, will face either defending champion Elina Svitolina or unseeded Swiss Belinda Bencic in Saturday's final.

Hsieh, who knocked out Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber and fourth seed Karolina Pliskova during her remarkable run to the semi-finals, kept Kvitova guessing with her unorthodox shot selection and soon had the world number four on the back foot.

Two-times Wimbledon champion Kvitova is one of the hardest hitters in the women's game, but found herself outwitted by Hsieh in a tense first set and the Czech's frustration showed as she made 12 unforced errors to Hsieh's one in the opener.

Kvitova, this year's Australian Open runner-up and the champion in Dubai in 2013, switched things up in the second set, stepping up well within the baseline to take time away from Hsieh and rushing to the net behind her own powerful serve.

The new approach paid dividends and Kvitova began reeling off winners at will as she raced into a 4-1 lead before claiming the set to force a decider.

The pair began the third set with an exchange of service breaks, but Kvitova broke again and then held her serve to get in front before wrapping up the win.

In the end, for all her guile and improvisational shot-making, Hsieh had no answer to Kvitova's raw power, mustering just 14 clean winners compared to 48 from her opponent.

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