I’d like to thank Nike for ruining my workout.
I’ve now had five people on both sides of the Colin Kaepernick kneeling controversy make a comment about what I was wearing to workout at three different health clubs — two in Manteca and one in Tracy over the course of three days.
I do not go to health clubs to discuss politics. I participate in workouts where I know my political views and basic values don’t jive 100 percent with anyone in the room. Given what I do for a living I do expect people occasionally to engage me in discussions about local, state or national politics.
But until this week thanks to Nike nobody tried to engage me in a political exchange simply because of what I was wearing. And let’s be clear. I was not wearing something emblazoned with “Feel the Berm” or “Make America Great Again”. It was because I made a decision to buy clothing with a Nike swoosh logo on it.
None of the five individuals were rude. I opted to make my replies in such a manner that it would not trigger a full blown engagement. That’s not the point. I go to a gym to work out and not engage in a discussion of social or political issues. Nike can justify their marketing stunt all they want by wrapping it in “how important it is for all of us to have the discussion” but let’s be honest and cut the sanctimonious crap. The discussion was already going on. Nike made a calculated marketing ploy to try and endear it to targeted consumers in a bid to generate more sales. Nike exists to make money, first and foremost.
This is the same company that for more than 40 years deliberately avoided hiring contractors that paid decent living wages to make their apparel and shoes. First they took their jobs out of this country. When factories they contracted with in places like Taiwan started paying employee wages people could make a living on, they dropped those operations to find even cheaper contractors in places like Vietnam and Indonesia where manufactures could get away with paying workers 50 cents an hour. For those only following the social media du jour causes without historical context, these factories Nike sought out and ruthlessly dropped when they stopped pay starving wages and raised costs to Nike were hardcore sweatshops where people including young children were forced to work 12 to 14 hour days, seven days a week if they wanted to earn meager wages to survive. Nike used the quintessential sweatshop to destroy competitors that weren’t as cut-throat and therefore couldn’t match their profit margins so they could dominate the market.
Nike — the firm that is now trying to market itself to demographics such as Millennials that have a high percentage of consumers that want companies with a social conscious that reflect their values and come down more predominately with the viewpoint Kaepernick is promoting — in reality is the ethical equivalent of a former drug lord that ruthlessly destroyed innocent lives to gain market share deploying a public relations campaign to paint himself as a social saint.
Nike is far from noble. Pro athletes who are on the Nike payroll that work alongside high paid peers that view women as punching bags and chattel didn’t join protests when women working for Nike at their Oregon headquarters revealed systematic sexual harassment and more taking place with the perpetrators being men in authority and the victims powerless women who needed their jobs to support families. So are we to assume that social conscious is a one pony show for those who make millions of dollars in endorsement deals who won’t distance themselves from a company that creates a toxic workplace for women?
So why do I own Nike gear? Good question. It took me years to get over the fact I had no desire to spend $28 for a workout shirt so I could be a walking advertisement for a sports apparel company. There was a time when companies kept their logo on collar tags. Even high end image brands that dominate women’s fashions haven’t gone as far as making their designer clothes literal billboards.
I wear their gear now because I like the fit. I realize there are others out there that match it, but once I get comfortable with something I stick with it. It is why in recent years I’ve taken to buying 8 workout shirts at a time if after trying one I like it. That explains why I currently use the same exact style and color of workout shirt that happens to have a Nike logo on it. I buy eight at a time at $28 a pop — as if my minuscule purchases means much to Nike’s bottom line — that after daily workouts and washings last for about a year before they are tossed after developing the nice, rigid white sweat ring under the armpits.
No company, no institution, and no individual is without sin.
But if self-righteous companies like Nike that are marred with major ethical and moral lapses insist on transforming their logo on products they are selling for consumers to wear into the secular equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount, it may force me to shop with a social conscious.
In that case, Nike’s extensive record of abusing kids and women to make obscene profits could direct my consumer dollars to Under Armour.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.