When it was first reported back in March that Maria Sharapova had failed a drug test, her three biggest sponsors – Nike, Porsche, and Tag Heuer – all suspended their contracts. They didn’t de-friend her on Facebook, so to speak, but they did send her a message that said “Hey! Let’s hang out after your doping investigation is over!” They wanted to see how this whole banned substance situation panned out before they made any permanent decisions.
Yesterday, the International Tennis Federation announced that they have hit her with a two-year ban after an independent panel agreed that she should be held responsible for taking meldonium, a drug that was put on the banned list last year. Nike is apparently a loyal bitch when they want to be, because even though Maria isn’t allowed to play for two years, CNN says they’re not dropping her. Nike released this statement regarding their relationship with Maria:
“Maria has always made her position clear, has apologized for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban. Based on the decision of the ITF and their factual findings, we hope to see Maria back on court and will continue to partner with her.”
Maria has been sponsored by Nike since she was 11 years old (she’s 29 now). Her current contract with Nike is worth a reported $70 million over eight years. Maria used to be the biggest-earning female athlete in the world, but that title now belongs to Serena Williams.
As for her pals at Porsche and Tag Heuer, well…they’re not exactly as ride-or-die as Nike. Tag Heuer says they’re “not in a hurry anymore to sign a new contract today or this month.” Porsche is waiting to see what happens when Maria appeals the two-year ban, adding that they will “continue to keep all activities with her on hold until the final judgment has been reached.”
There is one sponsor that never left Maria’s side through all of this, and that’s tennis company Head. Head said back in March that they would be sticking by Maria, despite testing positive for a banned substance, and they’re still sticking around after she got a two-year ban. That’s good. If RuPaul has taught me anything, it’s that there’s only one answer to the question: “How’s your head?” and it’s not: “Well, they’re not sending me free shit anymore.”