Nike- Sweatshop Labor and Faux liberalism for Profit
Capitalism is defined as an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. American capitalism has transformed into a corrupt form of capitalism. Capitalism in its purest form is to gain profits through exemplary service and quality to secure the loyalty of customers but modern-day capitalism strives by finding legal loopholes in established guidelines and laws for the sole purpose of exploiting customers for profit. From producers to consumers every level is exploited just to save a few dollars. Here’s where Nike comes into play. Everyone knows about Nike, the swoosh logo and its technological innovations in almost every sports gear, from the professionals to the amateur athletes, their first choice is Nike.
Founded in 1968 as Blue Ribbon Sports and officially became Nike, Inc. on May 30, 1971. The company takes its name from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Nike is now the most valuable sports business brand worldwide valued at about 36.8 billion US dollars. However, Nike’s past and present are shrouded in controversy. As early as 1970 Nike has been accused of using sweatshop labor to produce footwear and apparel.” Their brand celebrates humanity and all its potential, but Nike has a history of treating its workers as if they were not human at all”- New Idea. The inhumane conditions and struggles of these workers are highlighted in Jim Keady’s documentary “Behind the Swoosh”. From the report published by VIDEA we come to understand the terrible conditions of these sweatshop laborers, they earn a measly 1.10$ a day or less, even if they worked overtime, they would not be able to earn enough to meet necessities. They face verbal and physical abuse from their supervisor if they do not meet their daily quota and any form of dissent such as meeting with a union organizer can lead to their deaths. Nike is in direct cahoots with the local mafia for hired muscle to keep a check on workers and keep independent journalists away from the sweatshops. One would expect Nike to clear up its act by now, but as recently as February 29, 2020 the Washington Post reported that Nike receives sports gear produced by illegally detained Uighur Muslim minority from China’s western Xinjiang region. Nike said it was reviewing its suppliers’ hiring practices in China after the report was published.
Nike has used liberal ideologies in its ad campaigns to pander to the American liberal consensus as is highlighted by CBC’s report “Nike’s long history of courting controversy through advertising”. These ads have proved advantageous for Nike’s sales. In February 1995, Nike featured an openly gay, HIV-positive long-distance runner in their “Just Do It” ad campaign. In August 1995, Nike released its “If you let me play” ad which promoted women in sports and brought up the issue of gender equality. In December 2007, Nike touched on the issue of disabilities which featured a Paralympic medalist. In February 2017, Nike released its “Equality” ad campaign which featured legendary African American athletes including LeBron James, Serena Williams, Gabby Douglas, and Kevin Durant, in which the parallels between equality in sport and equality in the broader world was discussed. In March 2017, Nike featured five Middle Eastern women in sports hijab who pushed social norms to succeed in sports in their ad campaign to sell their most revolutionary product the sports hijab and in September 2018 Nike aligned itself with Colin Kaepernick through an ad that quoted ”Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”. Kaepernick kneeled during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before the game, rather than stand as is customary, as a protest against racial injustice and systematic oppression in the country.
These ads have cemented Nike’s political stance and have shown, at least to the general public that even a multibillion-dollar company cares about issues pertaining to their lives. But does Nike really care about gender equality? Actions speak louder than words and Nike’s actions towards the women of color they promote and the young girls in their training programs have shown that these ad campaigns are nothing but a cash grab. In early October Alberto Salazar the head coach of the Oregon project funded by Nike was banned from the sport for four years for doping violations. Later Mary Cain came forward with her story about the abuse she faced at the camp, she was forced to lose weight and was publicly shamed when she didn’t make weight, a direct consequence of this she developed RED-S syndrome and didn’t get her period for 3 years which led to her breaking 5 bones.
Alysia Montano told Nike she was going to have a baby; Nike responded that her contract would be paused, and she wouldn’t get paid. Allyson Felix one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes was unable to secure maternity protection too. Nike updated its maternity policies after the New York Times published the stories of these athletes
Nike is not the first company to use faux liberalism and it certainly won’t be the last. Nike’s hypocrisy shows us the extent to which a company will go for profits. The company reported spending 3.3 billion U.S. dollars on advertising and promotion in 2017 and increasing those expenses to 3.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. Just 1% of these figures could change the horrible conditions of the entire sweatshop worker community. Big corporations view consumers as a commodity to be exploited, they don’t care about your opinion, political affiliation or struggle unless they can advertise it for profits. Through lies and deception these companies make huge profits. If there’s anything that can force a multibillion-dollar company to change their predatory tactics it is a decline in sales. Nike has a tight grip around track and field athletes, Nike controls the top coaches, athletes, races, and the governing body, if amateur athletes want their careers to flourish, they must associate themselves with Nike, they don’t have a choice. Consumers have the power, now they need the knowledge to educate themselves about the ethicality of the products and services they purchase
- Nike- Sweatshop Labor and Faux liberalism for Profit - March 31, 2020