Duke Player Hurt as Sneaker Falls Apart, Sending Nike Into PR Meltdown

February 21, 2019 Updated: February 21, 2019

Nike is working to contain a public relations disaster after Duke college basketball star Zion Williamson was injured after his Nike shoe malfunctioned.

In a key game against North Carolina, Williamson’s foot appeared to break out of his shoe. His foot slid on the floor and the shoe “exploded,” according to some observers.

Williamson is considered one of the top NBA prospects of the past several years.

Former President Barack Obama was in the audience and was seen mouthing, “His shoe broke.”

People on social media said that Nike, which has already been dealing with the fallout of signing former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to a lucrative deal, is now dealing with another PR disaster.

Nike issued a statement after the sneaker problem, saying it’s “working to identify” the problem. Namely, Williamson was wearing Nike’s PG 2.5 shoes, a custom brand modeled after Oklahoma City Thunder player Paul George.

“We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” Nike told CBS Sports. “The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

This prompted shoe manufacturer Puma to issue a tweet before deleting it.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t ready to talk about it after the game.

“I’d rather not talk about what we’re going to do,” Krzyzewski told The Associated Press, which reported that Williamson sprained his knee.

“I’d rather talk about what just happened. Because we’re going to figure out what we’re going to do. So I don’t have that answer,” he said.

He said Williamson’s knee is stable, and the injury was mild.

“I hope he’s going to be OK,” fellow player RJ Barrett said of Williamson. “We don’t really know where things are right now.”

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell wrote on Twitter that “something has to change” after the Duke standout’s injury.

“Again let’s remember all the money that went into this game…. and these players get none of it…. and now Zion gets hurt,” he tweeted.

Nike’s stock went down by about 1 percent on Feb. 21 following the shoe malfunction.

“It’s already all over the world while we’re still watching the game he got hurt in,” said veteran shoe executive Sonny Vaccaro, Yahoo Sports reported. “They’re going to show it until we die.”

“If I’m the shoe company that had the shoe on the kid tonight,” Vaccaro added, “I’m praying to God that everything is OK physically.”

Vaccaro also touched on Williamson’s popularity and playing skills.

“He’s the most valuable player to come out of high school or college since LeBron James, without question,” Vaccaro said.

“All they want to hear about is Zion,” said a shoe company source about him. “There’s no silver. Zion is the gold.”

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