U.S. blocked Nike from sponsoring joint team

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U.S. blocked Nike from sponsoring joint team

Nike’s effort to sponsor the joint Korean women’s basketball team at the Asian Games was blocked by the U.S. government because of concerns that it would violate international sanctions against North Korea, Radio Free Asia reported on Thursday.

The American apparel company had wanted to design uniforms for the joint team but was blocked by U.S. “government requirements,” Kate Meyers, senior global communications director at Nike, told Radio Free Asia.

Nike is a sponsor of the South Korean women’s basketball team. The joint team comprising South and North Korean players is currently competing in uniforms designed by a South Korean company.

The Radio Free Asia report did not explain which sanctions the U.S. government was referring to when it gave the red flag to Nike, but it appeared to be United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270, passed in March 2016 to denounce Pyongyang for a ballistic missile test. It bans UN member states from providing the North with “luxury goods,” including recreational sports equipment.

It is not the first time that the United States, one of the five veto-wielding countries in the Security Council, refused to grant exemptions for the shipment of sports equipment to North Korea. The South Korean government tried to offer the North secondhand equipment after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics ended in February, but the United States disapproved.

A source in South Korea with knowledge of the matter said on the condition of anonymity that Seoul has been discussing “every single matter” related to North Korean sanctions with Washington. South Korea tried to provide the North with used gloves, but the plan was shot down by the United States, according to the source.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), similarly expressed disappointment earlier this month after the UN rejected his group’s request to send sports equipment to the North.

In a statement, Bach said the decision “makes it more difficult for the IOC to accomplish its mission to bring athletes from all over the world together to promote understanding and friendship regardless of political background or any other differences.”

Bach added that it was all the more disappointing because the exemption request was only for a “very limited number of athletes.”

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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