US sportswear giant Nike has announced it has permanently ended its sponsorship of ice hockey governing body Hockey Canada amid its historic handling of a high-profile sexual assault case.
In a statement, Nike said: “Nike is no longer a sponsor of Hockey Canada.
“We will continue to provide on-ice products for Hockey Canada athletes as part of our partnership with the International Ice Hockey Federation, but our individual partnership with the federation has ended.”
Nike, one of Hockey Canada’s premier marketing partners, had sponsored the organization since 1999.
The sportswear giant announced a temporary suspension of its sponsorship last October along with Imperial Oil, Tim Horton, Bauer, Chevrolet Canada, Scotiabank, and Canadian Tire, after revelations were made that the organization had quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight members of Canada’s then-junior men's national team at the Hockey Canada gala in London, Ontario, in 2018.
Investigations over the handling of the 2018 case then uncovered the governing body had paid almost CAD9 million (now $6.7 million) in 21 settlements for sexual assault complaints against its players since 1989.
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It was also found the organization had maintained two separate funds to pay off sexual assault settlements, with the amounts originating from player registration fees collected from parents and children across the country.
Amid the initial backlash, then-board chair Michael Brind’Amour stepped down, while the Canadian government froze Hockey Canada’s funding. The funding has since been restored after reform requirements were met in April.
The governing body then appointed Andrea Skinner as interim board chair but she also resigned in October following a contentious appearance in front of a parliamentary committee where she insisted the federation’s leadership would remain in place and the sport shouldn’t be made a “scapegoat” for a toxic culture that exists elsewhere in society.
The move by Nike comes two weeks after equipment brand Bauer reinstated its partnership with Hockey Canada after the governing body announced Katherine Henderson as its new president and chief executive.
She is due to start her role on September 4 after spending the last seven years as chief executive of the Curling Canada governing body.
At the time, Bauer vice president of global marketing Mary-Kay Messier said: “We believe now is the time for corporate partners, broadcast sponsors, and community leaders to support Hockey Canada.
“At the same time, we must all continue to hold the organization accountable for creating and executing a new vision that reflects our Canadian communities and provides equitable and enriching experiences for all to play the game.”
Chevrolet Canada, meanwhile, said it is still taking stock of the situation, adding: “Chevrolet Canada is encouraged by Hockey Canada’s new leadership. We are evaluating our direct sponsorship with Hockey Canada to ensure this organization, under its new leadership, fits with our values.”
In December, a new nine-member board of directors was named – five women and four men – with retired judge Fraser stepping in as board chair. The board will only serve a one-year term to focus on improving the organization’s governance and safety across the sport.