Paralympic athlete Hannah Cockroft has accused Adidas and Nike of discrimination after claiming both cited her decision not to wear footwear in her wheelchair races as the reason for not sponsoring her.
Cockroft, who has cerebral palsy, is tipped to be one of the stars at Rio after winning two gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympics, however she claims the world’s two leading sportswear brands have shunned her.
“I have been told it’s because I don’t wear shoes when I compete. What do I do with that? I wear a shirt, I wear trousers, I wear shoes on the podium when I’m collecting a gold medal. But apparently because that’s not when I’m competing that’s not enough. I’ve been told this by Nike, Adidas, all the big brands. I told them it was discrimination. It is discrimination,” said Cockroft.
She added: “It’s frustrating. You work as hard as you can. You kind of wonder what more can I win to make you want to sponsor me.”
Nike defended its record in disability sport, pointing out that it sponsors British wheelchair racer, David Weir, who does not compete in its footwear.
“Nike has a long history of working with Olympians and Paralympians who do not compete in Nike footwear, from Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, to six-times gold medal-winning Paralympian David Weir,” a Nike spokesperson said. “Nike works with multiple Paralympic athletes through individual athlete relationships or through partnerships with federations such as USA and Brazil. Nike also supports aspiring Paralympic athletes through sponsorship of the British Athletics futures programme.”
Adidas also rejected Cockroft’s claims by highlighting its partnership with disability teams, including ParalympicsGB.
A spokesperson for Adidas said: “Whilst we will not discuss negotiations with specific athletes we can say we sponsor a number of athletes who don’t wear footwear to compete.”
Cockroft is tipped to claim gold in the 100m, 400m and 800m T34 events in Rio and has worn Adidas and Nike while competing for Great Britain, however she does not have an individual kit deal.
Summing up her frustrations, the 24 year-old said: “It’s back to politics, back to people not seeing us as the elite athletes that we are. It is a little bit of perception. I’m on a billboard now so I’m doing something right. I wish I knew the answers and could fix it. It’s just about pushing ourselves in people’s faces a bit more now, showing them every year that the whole team is breaking world records, getting faster, getting stronger. It’s about making people notice that now.”