“U.S. sanctions mean that, as a U.S. company, Nike cannot supply shoes to players in the Iranian National team at this time,” the company said. “Sanctions applicable to Nike have been in place for many years and are enforceable by law.”
Some teams allow players to select their own cleats, including which brand, for competition. Some players, for example, may have sponsorship with Nike. Those deals, the company said, will not be affected. Other teams are sponsored by a particular brand — the main players in the international soccer scene are Nike, Adidas and Puma — and require players to wear a certain shoe.
Adidas, a Germany-headquartered company, provides Iran’s uniforms, but told CNBC it was not sponsoring the team, merely selling the kit at a steep discount.
Iranian players are free to purchase and wear Nike cleats during the tournament.
Still the sanctions have provoked the anger of international development groups critical of both the Trump Administration’s stance toward the Islamic Republic and Nike’s choice to abide by the sanctions, a violation of which could result in civil and criminal penalties.
“We are disappointed that Nike has boycotted Iran’s World Cup players by refusing to provide shoes to the Iranian national team,” Jamal Abdi, the vice president for policy of the National Iranian American Council, a nonprofit focused on Iranian-American relations, said in a statement. “We call on the U.S. Government to take immediate steps to address this shameful situation and that Nike actively seek a resolution. FIFA should also take necessary steps to address this issue and ensure that none of the teams in the World Cup are subject to double standards.
“Governments that drag politics into international sporting events, including Iran itself when it boycotts matches with Israel, face well-deserved admonishment. This situation is unfortunately no different. Events like the World Cup and the Olympics are meant to rise above disputes between nations and serve as an example of what unites us.”
The Iranian national team has not commented publicly on the sanctions. Iran is set to face Morocco in the first round of the World Cup on Saturday in St. Petersburg.
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