WASHINGTON (Circa) - When Iran takes the field for their first World Cup match in Russia, they won't be wearing Nike - at least not free Nike.
The Oregon-based sportswear company canceled a shipment of sponsored shoes to the Iranian national team just days before the 2018 World Cup began in Russia, leaving Iranian players scrambling to find backup shoes.
In May, President Trump withdrew from the "Iran Deal" signed by President Obama in 2015. The Iran Deal relaxed and removed many sanctions against Iran in exchange for a dismantlement of its nuclear program. But when the United States left the deal, many sanctions were reintroduced.
In a statement, Nike cited these sanctions as the reason they declined to continue their sponsorship of team Iran.
“The sanctions mean that, as a U.S. company, we cannot provide shoes to players in the Iran national team at this time,” Nike explained.
That statement met with backlash, though, as some pointed out that Nike sent the Iranian team boots for the 2014 World Cup, when similar sanctions were in place.
According to NBC news, Nike provides 60 percent of the cleats - often called "boots" in soccer parlance - for World Cup players in Russia.
Many other players get their boots from German-based company Adidas, who sold uniforms to the Iranian team at steep discount, but also did not sponsor either their uniforms or boots.
ESPN reports that Iran's players are borrowing shoes from non-Iranian players on their club teams or running out to buy their own boots for the competition.
Iranian coach Carlos Querioz has asked Nike for an apology, but he also told Sky Sports that the incident has brought his team together.
“It has been a source of inspiration for us," Quieroz said, adding "They should come out and apologize because this arrogant conduct against 23 boys was absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary.”
The Iranian national team was eliminated in round 1 of competition in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and has actually never made it past the first round of World Cup competition. They did not qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
#Iran’s team scrambling to find new cleats after Nike said won’t let the players wear its spikes just days ahead of #WorldCup— Ladane Nasseri (@LadaneNasseri) June 11, 2018
This can negatively impact #TeamMelli performances in a sport where small changes can alter one’s feel for the ball https://t.co/bXm3V7shge#Russia2018