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CHICAGO - Nike chairperson and co-founder Phil Knight said the scandal surrounding Tiger Woods is "part of the game" in signing endorsement deals with athletes and did not back away from the athletic shoe and clothing maker's relationship with the golfer.
Woods has admitted to "infidelity" in his marriage to his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren as allegations of multiple extra-marital affairs have rocked his life and career.
Knight told Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal that Nike had checked out Woods' background before signing its deal with the golfer and "he came out clean". Knight's comments were published following Woods' surprise announcement on Friday that he would take an "indefinite break" from pro golf.
Knight said companies cannot get such background checks right all the time and "there's always a risk".
However, he signalled no move to distance Woods from Nike, which has founded its global golf business on Woods' reputation and play.
"I think he's been really great," Knight said in the interview published yesterday.
"When his career is over, you'll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now."
Other sponsors have distanced themselves from Woods.
On Sunday, technology outsourcing and consulting firm Accenture ended its endorsement deal with Woods, a day after Gillette said it would limit the use of Woods in its marketing.
AT&T has said it is evaluating its relationship.
Woods, the world's first billionaire athlete, is estimated to earn about $100million (R750million) a year in endorsement deals.
Other sponsors include PepsiCo, Gatorade, Electronic Arts, TLC Vision, Upper Deck, Berkshire Hathaway Inc's NetJets and Tag Heuer. - Reuters