Deion Sanders and Nike are back together again after divorcing many years ago when their relationship turned sour and left him feeling unappreciated.
Nike confirmed the reunion Saturday in an email to USA TODAY Sports.
“We welcome Deion Sanders back to the Nike family,” the company said in a statement.
Sanders, now the head football coach at Colorado, also dropped a clue he was back with Nike in an Instagram post Friday. In the photo he posted, he wore a black shirt emblazoned with a Nike Swoosh next to his personal “Coach Prime” logo. On his lap in the photo was one of his old signature Nike shoes.
“’We Coming’ @nike #CoachPrime,” said the post.
This is a reversal from recent years, when he said he would never work with Nike again. He’s also had a relationship with rival company Under Armour since 2009.
Under Armour also issued a statement to USA TODAY Sports on Saturday that framed its relationship with Sanders in the past tense.
“Under Armour had a longstanding partnership with Deion Sanders for more than a decade and we are proud of what we accomplished together,” the statement said. “Now that he has gone on to Colorado, we can’t wait to see him continue to positively impact the game and look forward to watching him find continued success with his new partners, athletes, and expanded communities. “
Why is this happening now?
The company and Sanders didn’t elaborate, but it makes sense for several reasons. Colorado has been a Nike-sponsored school since 1995 — a sponsorship worth more to Nike now that Sanders has brought the national spotlight back to Boulder and brought more exposure to the Nike brand.
The school’s contract also required him to wear team Nike gear in his capacity as head coach. Sanders did so, but very awkwardly at first after being hired there in early December. In his early months on the job, he often chose to make media appearances in Colorado team gear that did not have the Nike logo.
One video from January showed a Colorado equipment staffer giving Sanders a Nike shoe to try on, leading Sanders to respond that he felt like he was “cheatin’ on somebody.”
He since has been wearing that Nike team gear frequently and now has resumed a personal relationship with Nike aside from Colorado’s relationship with the company.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Nike is expected to produce “Coach Prime” gear with the Nike logo and could relaunch his signature old shoe, the Nike Air Diamond Turf.
What were the previous issues?
Sanders didn’t think Nike showed him enough love after he signed with the brand in 1992 and helped the company get rich.
He appeared in national commercials and helped design his signature shoe line that looked like mini-Lamborghinis on turf. But in 2017, he indicated he wasn’t compensated like he felt he should have been.
“That’s why I’m upset with them right now,” he said in an 2017 interview with Joe La Puma of Complex, a multimedia company that covers pop culture. “We created these together, but they don’t want to seed me. They don’t want to direct-deposit.”
Sanders had other problems with the company, too. Unlike Under Armour, he said Nike didn’t want to help him fund youth sports leagues. “I’ve got to have a plan to sustain the shorties, with the youth leagues and all that, and they weren’t with it,” Sanders said on Full Size Run, a sneaker talk show, in 2019.
“You’ve got to be careful how you treat people because you never know,” he said.
Sanders also said he never met Phil Knight, Nike’s co-founder and former CEO. He took that personally.
“I thought that was kind of offensive,” Sanders said on the same show in 2019.
“Will you ever wear those old (Nike) shoes from back in the day?” Sanders was asked then.
“Never,” he said then. “Never.”
Never was a long time. But it’s over now after all those hard feelings. Sanders and Nike have remarried.