Money Given to Kenya, Since Stolen, Puts Nike in Spotlight


Kenyan runners, feared by rivals from other countries, training in the Rift Valley north of Nairobi in January.

Simon Maina/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NAIROBI, Kenya — When a Chinese clothing company swooped in and offered to sponsor Kenya’s famed runners, Nike panicked, Kenyan officials say.

“Can we talk about the situation?” a Nike executive wrote to a Kenyan official after hearing the news that the Kenyans wanted to end their deal with Nike. “You and I go back a long way.”

What followed — according to email exchanges, letters, bank records and invoices, provided by a former employee of Kenya’s athletics federation — has led to a major scandal in Kenya, a country in the midst of its biggest war against corruption in years.

In a contract signed several years ago, Nike agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in honorariums and a one-time $500,000 “commitment bonus,” which the former employee called a bribe.


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