John Capriotti, whom several outlets have called the “most powerful man in track and field,” stepped down as Nike’s Global Director of Sports last week. Capriotti, who was in the position for 21 years, was responsible for signing many of the world’s best professional runners as well as the $400 million dollar deal Nike signed with USATF back in 2014.
The news of Capriotti’s retirement comes as Nike continues to cut costs and lay off employees – the company has reportedly lost $790 million this quarter.
The Nike running division remains the most powerful in the sport, as the brand was founded on track and field. Capriotti was part of this legacy and the generation that helped build great moments for the company, but also worked through the difficulties Nike has faced over the last year and a half. First came the reveal of the lack of pregnancy protection for female athletes, then came the shuttering of the Nike Oregon Project and Alberto Salazar investigation and finally, in November, Mary Cain came forward with the story of her experience in a program endorsed by the company.
A Nike spokesperson told outlets that Capriotti’s departure was unrelated to the NOP or Salazar controversy.
The Oregonian speculated that Capriotti’s departure could threaten the commitment that Nike has to track and field, as its driving force in that department for so long. They wrote, “Capriotti and Nike also helped secure Eugene’s position as one of the world capitals of the sport. He was such a fixture at Hayward Field that his customary spot in the grandstands became known as Cap’s Corner.”
The company currently sponsors the Bowerman Track Club, which trains out of their campus in Beaverton, Oregon. Canadian record holders Gabriela DeBues-Stafford and Mohammed Ahmed are both members and Nike sponsored athletes.