Nike’s Employee of the Month

Due out October 10, “The Express” is a sports drama movie based on the life of Syracuse running back Ernie Davis. In case you are not that familiar with him, Davis was a running back for the Orangemen from 1959-61, and after his final season in 1961, he became the first African-American to win the Heisman trophy. In the 1962 draft, Ernie was drafted in the first round by the Redskins and subsequently traded to the Cleveland Browns where he would team up with old Syracuse teammate Jim Brown. Shortly after signing an 80,000 dollar contract which would make him the highest paid player in NFL history, Davis was diagnosed with monocytic leukemia and would die just a year later never playing football again.

Syracuse A.D. Daryl Gross hired Bruno Lucchesi, an 82 year old New York sculptor, in the spring of 2007 to erect a statue honoring the great Davis. After spending over a year creating the statue, here is the final product that was unveiled last week…

Some quick facts:

  • Davis passed away in 1963.
  • Nike was created in 1971.
  • Syracuse needed funding to complete the statue.
  • Nike sponsors Syracuse.
  • The Nike ‘Swoosh’ can be found on the statue’s helmet, jersey, pants, and shoes.
  • From sculptor Bruno Lucchesi: “Syracuse University sent me all of the materials of Ernie’s uniform and football gear of the clothing, the helmet, cleats, pads and the football to be used in the making of Ernie’s sculpture. When the clay stage was completed, Syracuse University approved it. When the bronze was completed, Syracuse University again approved it. And they paid for it upon its completion.”

Add this incident to the list of reasons why Syracuse A.D. Dr. Daryl Gross will be joining football coach Greg Robinson on a one-way train to Quebec this December. It took almost half of a century for Syracuse to honor the first African-American Heisman Trophy winner. Davis was abused, verbally and physically, throughout his short life and still persevered to break the color barrier in much the same way Jackie Robinson did for his sport. Now, thanks to the great Ernie Davis and all of his achievements, Athletic Director Dr. Daryl Gross can exploit him to pay off a million dollar/year football coach he hired to go 8-31 in 3+ years and fund an athletic department that is so deep in the hole they don’t have 10,000 dollars for a bronze statue.

Said Nike spokesman Kejuan Wilkins,

“It’s pretty straightforward. There wasn’t any involvement on our end. We didn’t even know the statue was being erected. Is it embarrassing? The university has addressed it publicly, and we’re glad to hear that they’re going back to make the correction. If there was any involvement on our end, we wouldn’t shy away from it.”

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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