Nike is famously inflexible when it comes to the athletes it sponsors wearing or using any competitor's products.
When Tiger Woods burst onto the scene at the '97 Masters, the only place you could see swooshes was on his clothing. Nike developed a line of clubs around Tiger and now he plays almost exclusively with Nike equipment (with the exception of his Scotty Cameron putter). Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley initially refused to take part in the gold medal ceremony at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics because the official U.S.A. warmup suits were made by Reebok. An agreement was eventually reached where Jordan and Barkley would wear the suits, but would cover up the Reebok logo with an American flag.
Neither of those options worked for Nike this year, which is why it was forced to allow its swimmers to wear Speedo's LZR Racer at the Beijing Olympics.
The LZR is Speedo's revolutionary, NASA-inspired, faux-shark skin bathing suit that has been worn in a staggering 48 world record swims since it debuted in February. Swimmers under contract with other companies have been clamoring to wear the suit, as no other manufacturer, Nike included, has been able to develop a suit that matches the LZR.
From the Associated Press:
Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said yesterday the company felt it was fair to extend the offer it made in June allowing its swimmers to wear Speedo's suit at the U.S. Olympic trials.
"It is about putting their performance and their focus first," Stoyer said. "This is what they have trained for. It is the biggest moment of their lives."
Nike really had little choice in the matter, especially after allowing its swimmers to wear the suit at Olympic Trials. But its decision to put the welfare of its swimmers ahead of the bottom line is refreshing nonetheless.