Mark Parker: Nike boss to leave role after Oregon Project is closed down

October 23, 2019 by No Comments


Parker with Nike athlete Eliud Kipchoge on 12 October after he became the first person to run a marathon in under two hours, beating the mark by 20 seconds.

Nike has announced chief executive Mark Parker will step down from the role next year, just weeks after the company’s Oregon Project closed down.

Earlier this month head coach Alberto Salazar was banned for four years after being found guilty of doping violations.

Parker had backed Salazar and said Nike would support him in any appeal.

Parker will become Nike’s executive chairman in January and will be replaced by John Donahoe.

Nike said Parker would “continue to lead the board of directors and work closely with Donahoe and the senior management team”.

On October 11 Nike released a statement saying the Salazar situation had become “an unfair burden” on athletes on the elite training programme.

“We made the decision to wind down the Oregon Project to allow the athletes to focus on their training and competition needs,” Nike said at the time.

“We will help all of our athletes in this transition as they choose the coaching set-up that is right for them.”

Parker sent an internal memo calling the Salazar situation a “distraction” for Nike Oregon Project (NOP) athletes.

Salazar’s ban followed a four-year investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) and a two-year court battle behind closed doors.

The 61-year-old American said he will appeal the ruling, which Nike has said it will support.

Nike also stressed the Usada findings that performance-enhancing drugs had not been used on or by NOP athletes.

The NOP, based in Beaverton, Oregon, was established in 2001 and was the home of British four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah between 2011 and 2017.


Dan Roan, BBC sports editor

This is seismic news in the world of sports business. Last year, Nike said Parker would extend his four-decade-long spell at the company beyond 2020. Now he is to step down, just three weeks after his friend – coach Alberto Salazar – was banned for doping violations.

Nike has not suggested Parker’s decision is linked to the scandal, but it has caused them and their chief executive significant reputational damage. Parker was implicated in the US Anti-Doping Agency case against Salazar for being aware of a testosterone experiment conducted on Nike premises, which has since led to the closure of the Nike Oregon Project training centre.

Parker had said he did not believe the testosterone experiment was breaking any rules, and had backed Salazar in the wake of the scandal, saying Nike would support the coach’s appeal. It will now be interesting to see if his replacement John Donahoe feels the same way.

Parker is no stranger to controversy. In 2018, Nike had to overhaul its leadership team in the wake of allegations of gender discrimination and it has faced scrutiny over its contract policy towards pregnant athletes that it sponsors.

He has also presided over a period when Nike has sought to expand not only its global sales, but also its cultural influence through a series of powerful and often highly contentious ad campaigns linked to the company’s superstar athletes, such as Serena Williams and Colin Kaepernick.