United States-based sport and clothing company Nike announced it will not provide cleats to Iran’s national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup, scheduled to begin on June 14, citing U.S. sanctions.
“The sanctions mean that, as a U.S. company, we cannot provide shoes to players in the Iran national team at this time,” Nike said in a statement Friday.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced last month the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran, which aimed to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for an end to economic sanctions against Tehran.
The decision was accompanied by new economic sanctions. The U.S. Treasury can impose a penalty of up to US$1 million and 20 years in prison against any company or person who violates the sanctions.
Despite their justification, many are outraged by Nike’s decision.
The president of the National Iranian American Council Trita Parsi said: “I haven't gotten clarity on what legal basis [Nike] is using to say this. They should reference what part of the sanctions they are talking about since technically they're not selling anything."
The head coach of Iran’s national team, Carlos Queiroz, told reporters “players get used to their sports equipment, and it's not right to change them a week before such important matches.”
The players have been practicing with the shoes, which they received before beginning their training ahead of the World Cup.
Nike’s use of the sanctions to justify its decision has raised concerns because in 2014, when economic sanctions were in place against Iran, the national team wore Nike cleats during the World Cup games.
Iran has also requested FIFA to address the matter as the team prepares to play its first game against Morocco on June 15 in St. Petersburg.