Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sportswriters Urged to Examine Nike

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sportswriters Urged to Examine Nike

Article excerpt

FOR THE SWOOP, sponsoring a National Association of Black Journalists seminar may have been a big "oops."

Nike sponsored the high-profile discussion entitled "Are Pro Sports Bad for America," at NABJ's 22nd annual convention in Chicago last week. In the manner of corporate sponsors everywhere, Nike hung on the wall behind the dais two big banners with its ubiquitous Swoop logo.

No sooner had the session been opened to questions from the audience when the Nike-bashing began--starting with the shoemakers logo.

"I see blood dripping from those logos" said Washington Post staff writer Lonnae O'Neal Parker. Nike's aggressive marketing of basketball shoes to inner-city youth has lead to incidents in which kids are killed or injured by other kids stealing their shoes.

"You know how those kids covet those shoes .... Nike has more blood on its hands than any other company," Parker said. "What is it doing at all NABJ session?"

Former professional basketball player Craig Hodges quickly added his own charges against Nike, calling the company "masters of manipulation."

"You [Nike] understand how to make black people buy your product while over in Singapore people are producing your shoes at slave wages," said Hodges, who believes his outspokenness on racial issues shortened his pro career.

He implicitly criticized Chicago Bulls star Michael Joan for lending his name to high-priced shoes and for refusing to speak out against Nike's manufacturing and marketing practices.

A Nike public relations manager in the room speaking while some in the crowd hooted and a greater number asked for quiet--said the session reflected Nike's "long relationship with NABJ" and was intended to be "a very open discussion about sports and black America." "And as far as the issue of wages in Vietnam goes," continued Jana Manyr, Nike's general manager of public relations, "the quality of life in Vietnam is greater today and capitalism is greater today because of Nike's participation"

That only drew the wrath of Jesse Jackson, whose organization PUSH led an unsuccessful boycott of Nike several years ago.

"I went to Indonesia last year and Nike locked me out of their slave labor camp and Reebok let me in," Jackson said. …

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