The Loop

Why Tiger Woods might not be wearing Nike in two years

March 04, 2014

Will Tiger Woods trade in the Swoosh for the stripes? It appears that way, but it's not what you think.

No, the Nike pitchman since turning pro in 1996 isn't about to leave a company that makes his own line of apparel. But when golf returns to the 2016 Summer Olympics, he could be required to wear (gasp!) Adidas.

On Tuesday, Adidas, with two of its stars -- Dustin Johnson and Jessica Korda -- announced it will outfit the U.S. golfers who qualify for the team in Rio.

While the Olympic course is still being built and the playing format is still being figured out, Woods' participation -- if he's healthy and still wants to play -- is one of the few things golf fans can expect in Rio. What remains unclear is how much flexibility players will be given when choosing their outfits, and if there will be any pushback by Woods' camp or by other players with conflicting sponsorships.

The reason this is different than other team events like the Ryder Cup is that while those uniforms don't feature the outfitter logos, Olympic uniforms sometimes do (although in both scenarios, players are traditionally free to wear their footwear of choice).

At the 1992 Summer Olympics, there was a similar issue involving a Nike-sponsored superstar. Michael Jordan, leader of USA Basketball's "Dream Team" convinced five other Nike-sponsored players to cover up a Reebok patch on their awards ceremony sweatsuits when accepting the gold medal by unzipping the top. Jordan, Charles Barkley (Nike), and Magic Johnson (Converse) made sure to limit the rival company's exposure by draping an American flag over their shoulders.

That may have worked for them -- and Phil Knight -- but covering up a golf shirt and hat, especially in Rio's heat, will be trickier.