Young Jamaica footballer lands historic Nike deal
Ryon Jones, Sports Reporter
History was yesterday created after 16-year-old Leon Butler became the first football player in the region to earn an endorsement contract from major sporting goods company Nike.
Butler inked a three-year deal with Nike which will see him don their apparel both on and off the pitch. The deal comes on the heels of the player, who came up through the Phoenix All Stars Football Academy ranks, signing to Dutch powerhouse Ajax.
"Nike has scouts all over the world and he (Leon) got into the Nike radar and then we did some investigations and started negotiations," Nike's regional director, Pedro Boyd, said during yesterday's press conference at Spanish Court Hotel. "We were interested in Leon because we knew he was talented and we got good reviews on him from our secret scouts.
"He is getting a historic deal and we are expecting him to have fun, to play football and do what he likes. He is going to have the whole Nike lifestyle, all the clothing on the pitch andoff the pitch as well.
Leon, who was born dyslexic, is pleased that he has overcome the varying challenges and has now earned such an endorsement.
“I feel excellent because we have been through a lot and it is a great accomplishment for me and the Phoenix members, Leon shared. “It is a dream come true because I have always liked Nike and I think Nike is the best."
Kyle Butler, Leon’s younger brother, is set to follow closely in his footsteps as negotiations are well advanced for him to join Ajax, while Nike is to commence talks for an endorsement deal with him. “We are going to start negotiations with Kyle and, hopefully, we can also sign a deal, Boyd shared. “Just for this contract (Leon’s), we negotiated over two months, so one step at a time.
Kyle, the former St George’s College Under-14 captain who turned 16 earlier this month, is looking forward to signing off on his deal.
“I am looking forward to it because I have worked all my life for it, Kyle expressed. “It is history in the making and I am really glad that I am alive to witness it and be a part of it. It is a great accomplishment for me and my country, and I am just going to keep working hard and stay focused, as the sky is the limit.
Nike’s partnership will extend beyond the two players, as they have also signed a threeyear deal with the academy.
“We demonstrated interest in helping out the academy because I know from a personal point of view, Jamaica has the bio type and the athletes, so we are sure there should be more Leons and more Kyles here,
Boyd shared. “The contract has X amount of money for products and then the Phoenix organisation can ask for whatever they need for the academy: balls, soccer shoes, jerseys, etc.
Founder and president of Phoenix, Craig Butler, who is also the father of Leon and Kyle, was delighted.
“This is our first international sponsor and it was a big fight between Nike and adidas to get this contract with the boys and with the academy,
Butler revealed. “We chose Nike because of their commitment to our foundations, which is to Jamaican football.
The academy also got another shot in the arm, as Ava Transportation Jamaica Limited also signed a partnership deal for an undisclosed sum.