Friday, September 07, 2018

Just Do What?

Nike has courted controversy before. Or maybe you don't recall the sweatshops they have been accused of using since the 1970's to produce their shoes and sports paraphernalia. That one didn't work out so well. During the 1990's, they decided to spend a lot of money making sure that people didn't have to die to make their sneakers. These days, we are told that working for Nike in any capacity is a dream job. Some dreams are still better than others, and nobody is probably going to get Phil Knight rich by working in one of their factories, but at least the body count per shoe has come down a little bit. That didn't keep Jonah Peretti from trying to get a pair of personalized cross-trainers embroidered with the word "sweatshop." Reform doesn't always come with a sense of humor.
The corporate types at Nike got caught in some #metoo mischief as well. Being a purveyor of fitness wear for men and women becomes a little troublesome when the powers that be are less than empowering to their female employees.
And still, there are billions of dollars to be make on tennis shoes. And running shoes. And lacrosse shoes. And so on. And you're going to need socks, right? Head on over to the Nike trough where all your athletic clothing needs can be met. Just don't stare too long at that advertisement bearing the likeness of Colin Kaepernick. The slogan reads, "“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”  It has been two full seasons since Colin has thrown a pass, but the NFL quarterback without a team was chosen by Nike to be their poster boy. The sacrifice he has made, it would seem, is playing professional football. His stated belief: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." The choice set off alarms in all the places you might expect. Tucker Carlson said, “This is an attack on the country. It’d be very different if he were protesting this politician or this policy, or this specific policy for this specific thing.” Well, Tuck, I hate to point this out, but I believe that's exactly what the man did. Nike chose to use his likeness as a way of connecting to that strength of commitment. 
And yes, it is very likely that after an initial flurry of burning of sneakers and socks and foundation garments, the bottom line at Nike will survive. 
And guess what? Everyone is talking about Nike again. There is not such thing as bad publicity. Or at least that is what advertising executives will tell you. Thanks, Don Draper.  

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