Nike…They Did It…



There once was born a drab and boring little animal in the woods. The other animals paid little attention to it as it hunted and gathered to survive. It was, according to the other creatures, not much to look at. However, it grew up; and because it received little help in his usual daily tasks, he became bigger and stronger. He developed strong muscles and an even stronger mind. No matter what the others thought or said, he’d show them!

Slowly, as the seasons passed, he became faster and proved his hunting skills by always out-sprinting even the best of the other hunters. Now the other animals no longer thought of him as drab or boring  – they adored him.  The girl-animals trooped on behind him, hoping to draw his attention. The man-animals grudgingly admitted he was something special.

Now, during those years, the king of the animals wanted to expand his kingdom. He called in the elders  and asked them how he should go about it.

“Get an ambassador, King,” the owl said, “to tell other animals about your greatness. Get somebody they’ll respect, and they’ll believe him. Get somebody they admire.”

Then the king of the animals, the one with the golden fur and the deep roar, called this animal in to tell him the secret to his success.

“I worked hard, King, and trained hard. I didn’t want to live with the idea that I might be drab or boring. That sounded too much like a loser to me. And as I trained, I became stronger; and now I’m the best.”

“Look,” the king said, “I want you to do something for me. If you go around, telling everybody what a wonderful king I am, they’ll immediately believe you. My kingdom will grow. In return, I will see to it that you have to hunt no more. You’ll have the best food and the best living-place of all. It is something small to ask, is it not? As a sign that you are my ambassador, I’ll  also give you a badge to wear, so they know where you are coming from. How about it?”

“Will that make me a winner, King?”

The king laughed. “Of course! Losers don’t live a life of luxury. You’ll see: you’ll be the envy of all.”

And so it came to pass that this animal became known far and wide. He could now choose the prettiest girl-animals to be at his side. He ate and drank to his heart’s content. In his mind, there was no doubt: he was the best – and he wore the king’s badge with pride. More and more animals took notice of the king that spoiled this magnificent hunter and the kingdom grew.

But one day, the hunter-animal realised something: his fame was so wide-spread, his luxury so admired, that he started believing he was bigger and better than all the other animals in the world. He groomed himself and strutted around. The world was at his feet and he could do as he pleased.

The king saw this happening and was greatly saddened. The other animals complained about the ambassador’s behaviour.  No, the king decided, something had to be done. He spoke to the animal kindly, but it didn’t help.

Then the king roared his displeasure.

“You have violated my trust! Sure, you helped me expand my kingdom; but the way you live now makes the other animals laugh at me. From now on, you will receive no more food. Your luxury will be taken away from you.” The king then smote the hind legs of the animal, causing them to shorten. He took away the beautiful voice and gave him a silly laughing yelp – so nobody would understand him any more. And he took away his shining coat, to replace it with a dirty, ugly hide. “From now on, you will hunt no more. You will have to wait for other hunters to finish their meals before you can eat the scraps. And I will change your name. Whenever your name is heard, faces will turn away in disgust.”

And that is how hyena came into being.

And he is still the scavenger who is avoided by the other animals.

And the king will forever deny his part in the downfall of the once-magnificent hunter.


“Gertruida, where do you get these outrageous stories from? Or do you have a book filled with fables?”

“No, Vetfaan, no book. It’s in the newspapers every day. Big companies cough up ridiculous amounts of money for sportsmen and women to wear their shoes or carry a bag with their name on. It’s called branding, and it’s all above board. A few years ago Nike spent $460-million per year on sponsorships and advertisement.  Can you imagine how many shoes they have to sell to recoup that amount? It’s obscene! And the public accepts it and buys the expensive stuff, because they want to be associated with the brand.

“So young men like Tiger and Lance and Oscar suddenly find themselves with more money they have ever imagined. The result is as tragic as it is predictable. Of course their lifestyles will change. Of course the adoration of millions of fans will have an effect. And of course the old saying is true: logic whispers, money shouts.

“The point I’m making, Vetfaan, is that sponsoring companies contribute to the downfall of men and women who accept these ridiculous amounts of money.  What good is it to withdraw the sponsorship after an athlete has made a mess of his life? Does this make the company innocent? By withdrawing the sponsorship, are they denying their social responsibility?”

Boggel gets on his crate to join the conversation.

“So, Gertruida, do you suggest such a company must face the music, too?”

“Exactly. There should be penalties imposed on a company that contributes to the downfall of the sporting greats.  If a sponsor deliberately contributed to an exorbitant lifestyle and a ridiculous expense account – can they turn away and say they’’e got nothing to do with it? Paying millions and millions into somebody’s account surely implies co-responsibility?”


Way out in the desert a hyena waits patiently for the lions to stop feeding on a carcass. It is hot, and the smell of putrid flesh wafts amongst the clouds of flies.

It waits.

It has no other option…


18 thoughts on “Nike…They Did It…

      1. Ben Wolmarans

        Dankie Amos. Ek kuier so lekker Boggel gooi al dubbels. Jou besonderse manier om n boodskap oor te dra is uniek. Natuurlewebeskrywing maak n luisteraar se kop oop en die hart ontvanklik. Geen tikfoute vandag nie. Ek bly nou weg van die strooitjies!

      2. Amos van der Merwe Post author

        Hi Ben..ja, dis beter om versigtig te wees vir daardie strooitjies! Dankie vir die saamkuier, en onthou: Boggel is nou 24-uur oop. As hy nie hier is nie, help jy jouself en werk jy sommer die kasregister ook. Die sleutel is agter die Rum bottel.

  1. Herman Grobler

    Good story, but can sponsors really be held responsible for the misconduct of someone who goes astray? How could they have known beforehand, and how could they prevent or offer restitution for their wrongdoing? The hyena made its own decisions, the lion can’t be held responsible for that. Or am I missing something?

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      No, you’re quite right. It isn’t logical to shift blame to the sponsor in that regard. Somehow, the argument overlaps with gun control. By screening potential owners, society can at least say it tried to limit (legal) ownership to responsible people. Society, the law, the government accepted an obligation to create a safer environment by screening. So my thought is that sponsors should not only look at the performance on the sportsfield. If an athlete has had a history of latent unacceptable traits, one may assume they’d need more guidance and build it into the contract.Handing out millions to an unstable personality may have unacceptable results, which makes it undesirable for everyone concerned, the sponsor included. Misconduct remains the domain of the perpetrator, but can the sponsor have a clear conscience if he created a lifestyle that led to destruction? It’s a difficult conundrum, with no clear-cut answer. So this piece was a rambling of thoughts, trying to come up with a solution for potentially vulnerable recipients. Thanks for raising the question – it certainly deserves debate.

      1. Herman Grobler

        That’s the kind of inner struggle I sometimes had when performing a marriage ceremony, especially when one is of uncertain character. And some have indeed turned around and became wonderful spouses. Other seeming wonderful bridegrooms turned out to be wife abusers!
        But still you raise an interesting point to ponder on.
        It deserves debate. It also raises the question of our own responsibility when we become aware of traits that might lead to disaster.

      2. Amos van der Merwe Post author

        Oh, the beauty of a comfortable debate! Thank you so much for commenting, Herman, I really appreciate your thoughts. It’s in the exchanging of apparently conflicting ideas that we find new horizons to explore. Not all stories leave us feeling content and not all exchanges are comfortable. But without it, we’ll never grow. So, a BIG thank you for stimulating debate and making me (hopefully others too) re-evaluate our positions as spectators. We for part of a bigger society, and we can’t just be satisfied by looking on, thinking we are not involved. We are part of a living organism, and this organism isn’t well. By at least talking about it, we can maybe contribute in a small way to healing. And every little bit helps…

    2. Sabdra

      I agree, it is not the sponsership fault. Everybody makes his own dcisions. So please look at person who pulled the trigger and stop trying to give somebody else the fault!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

        No argument, Sabdra, and if somebody is guilty, he/she must face the wrath of the law to the fullest extent. Have a peek at my answer to Herman. Obviously I used my poor hyena in a roundabout, unclear manner. I apologise for that. I accept sponsorship as a business transaction. Maybe we should ask the question differently: in a transaction both parties are contracted to deliver something. If screening points to a possible default, the contract can be made more secure by building in safety measures. I don’t know what the answer is, but a healthy debate might make such tragedies (that includes doping, match fixing etc) less common. I definitely don’t want to blame anybody else than the perpetrator. It’s the future I’m worried about.

  2. colonialist

    The popular conception of a hyena isn’t always accurate, though, is it? On occasion I have heard they will do their own kill, and I have seen them chase young lions away from a carcase.

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Right! They are excellent hunters and have a wonderful family structure. They don’t deserve the perception of cowards at all. I chose them as scavengers because that is how most people view them. But, as you know, popular opinion is often flawed. So…well spotted!


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