As of March 23rd, rumor control mill website Snopes listed the status of the rumor about Steph leaving Nike over religious reasons as: Unproven.
For over a year the internet has been flooded with rumors of why one of the NBA’s most popular players, reigning MVP and defending champion Steph Curry left Nike in favor of the less popular athletic brand Under Armor for his signature shoe deal. ESPN staff writer Ethan Strauss recently wrote an article detailing how Nike failed miserably in its business meeting to keep the player they already had in house. But missing from the article was what has become the central theme to Steph’s appeal as a player and as a brand – his faith and the role it played in joining Under Armor.
It’s no secret that there’s more to Steph’s stratospheric assent than just his skills on the court. Yes, he’s a unique player that has the combination of handles, court vision and shooting skills like no one we’ve ever seen. But what has been closely aligned to his appeal as a player has also been his religion. Like Kurt Warner, Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin before him, Steph Curry’s Christianity has been an essential part of his brand. So when the NBA’s brightest rising star left the Swoosh for a company that had been widely known for its football gear, many believed that Nike didn’t want to embrace that part of his brand to make it part of their own. And thus, an Internet rumor was born. “Steph left Nike over religious reasons” was a rumor that spread like wildfire. There was one Facebook post alone that had been shared over 172,000 times. The rumors persist today, despite Sole Collector’s pretty definitive dismantling.
And it hasn’t been completely without merit. Many believed that Steph himself alluded to it in a piece with Marcus Thompson, who has been covering Curry since his rookie year, during the launch of his first signature shoe The Curry One.
The idea that Curry left Nike for religious reasons made sense to many people. So, following the March 23 win over their rival LA Clippers I caught up with Curry and asked him plainly: “Did you leave Nike over the creative control to put scriptures on your shoe?” Here’s his response:
“Nah,” the NBA’s points leader said, “that was strictly an agreement from Under Armor. They wanted to know who I am as a person when I was designing my signature show and how much my faith drives me in what I do on the court. I didn’t ask Nike if I could put Philippians 4:13 on my shoe, they said no and I was like I’m out. It was never like that. It was strictly when I got to Under Armor and when I was designing the Curry One, what could I put on there that was a part of me and my belief. And that was that.”
When asked to clarify if it was something that Nike rejected he said “I didn’t have a signature shoe with Nike so it was never a part of the conversation.” The appeal to Under Armor wasn’t because Nike rejected an expression of faith, but because it was something that Under Armor valued and embraced as part of the man and part of his brand.
So Snopes can close the case on this one. The case of the “Religious Right Feet” can go from “Unproven” to “False.” Steph didn’t leave Nike over religious reasons. But Under Armor’s openness to embrace Steph’s faith helped him to willingly join them.