Nike Apologizes to Disabled Olympians
1:31 p.m. ET (1831 GMT) November 1, 2000

MELBOURNE, Australia (Reuters Health) - The Nike apparel company is facing widespread condemnation from disability groups after one of its magazine ads labeling people in wheelchairs as "drooling'' and "misshapen'' marred the close of the Paralympic Games in Sydney. Australian disabled sporting groups blasted the company for running the advertisement, which appeared in several American outdoor magazines on sale here and in the United States. The company apologized for the ad and quickly pulled it from future magazine issues. The ad says: "You're probably asking yourself, 'How can a trail running shoe...help me avoid compressing my spinal cord into a Slinky on the side of some unsuspecting conifer, thereby rendering me a drooling, misshapen husk of my former self, forced to roam the earth in a motorized wheelchair with my name embossed on one of those cute little license plates you get at> carnivals?''' The uproar over the ad came on the day that Australia was celebrating the closing of the Paralympic Games. Australians were extremely supportive of the Paralympics, which saw them post a record 149 medals in a games that officials called the most successful ever. John Moxon, who is president of the Physical Disability Counsel of New South Wales appeared in several media outlets saying that the ad was "not funny'' and that it was "vicious''. Democrat MP Kim Lees called the advertisement "barely believable.'' "We have stepped over the line with this advertisement and there is no excuse for it. We have hurt a group of people for whom we have enormous admiration,'' Nike co-founder and CEO Dan Wieden said in a statement posted on the company's Web site. The statement stresses Nike's long-time support of disabled athletes and notes that the company also outfitted Australia's Paralympic team. But several groups called on the team to drop Nike as its sponsor. Wheelchair Sports Australia chairman Michael Godfrey-Roberts was quoted in the newspaper The Australian as saying that if the Paralympic team had a choice of sponsors, "I have a feeling they would be saying: 'Thank you very much, Nike. We are going to a competitor, they are 
nicer people.'''