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Nike: Civil rights abuser turned civil rights champion?

Nike forever been an abuser of labour rights

For a good portion of the 21st century, Nike has been known mainly for two things: expensive shoes and worker abuse. Over the years, it has become almost cliché to chastise Nike and many have come up with prospective boycotts to combat the company’s worker abuse in 3rd world countries.

As we all know, few of these initiatives have been fruitful as Nike remains one of the premier brands and more often than not is the shoe-of-choice of those who proposed these boycotts themselves.

Despite the lack of improvement, Nike has never been presented by the public as a beacon of moral aptitude, much less a defender of human rights.

However, it’s 2018 and anything can happen.

Trump begins culture war with NFL kneelers

As we all know, Colin Kaepernick, the NFL, and Donald Trump have been locked in a culture war regarding Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the national anthem. Kaepernick and his fellow teammates have used this kneeling tactic as an attempt to raise awareness for the ill-treatment of Black Americans by law enforcement.

Whether or not you agreed with their message, it was clearly within Kaepernick and his teammates’ free speech rights to voice their opinions as they saw fit, or at the very least within the jurisdiction of the National Football Association (NFL) to chastise independently chastise them.

A year ago, however, the President decided to chime in and do what ‘The Donald’ does best: create controversy

And thus, following Trump’s iteration to “get that son of a bitch off the field”, this had become the subject of national controversy that has come to light once again in the wake of a new NFL season.

Nike endorses Colin Kaepernick and his protest

After witnessing the national engagement with the kneeling controversy, private conglomerates such as Nike saw the potential benefits that could come from associating with Colin Kaepernick and his protest for free speech and civil rights.



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Liberals applaud Nike for defending civil rights

All of a sudden, everyone on the political left champions Nike as a defender of civil rights and freedom of expression. Much of Nike’s notoriety seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird in exchange for praise and adulation. Much of the American public who had supposedly never purchased Nike previously are now itching to support this ‘woke progressive company’.



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While the opposite reaction has occurred as well with many planned boycotts, mass burnings of Nike products, and Trump himself using twitter to admonish the company, this has only enhanced Nike’s image as a defender of the oppressed in the face of the oppressor.

Nike still a Civil Rights abuser

And yet despite Kaepernick’s endorsements and the public’s praise online, Nike nonetheless has been and remains a widespread human rights violator.

According to reports from the Huffington Post, workers at a Nike factory 60 miles from Jakarta, Indonesia are kicked, slapped, and verbally abused by their supervisors. As many as 10,000 female labourers are employed here and earn money at a rate of $0.5/hr, just enough for food and poor-quality housing.

One worker, who didn’t wish to be named for fear of reprisal, lamented that they either choose to stay and suffer or speak out and face termination of their employment. It seems as if Nike is able to stand in solidarity with overpaid football players and their free speech platform but stands in the way of their own workers having the same right.

According to reports, many of the sweatshop labourers in these Indonesian factories are poverty-stricken Muslim women who by virtue of circumstance fit the definition of an ‘oppressed group’ more than any of those on Nike’s ad campaigns.

Yet at the end of the day, giving these women a platform to voice their concerns would damage their reputation and force them to take unprofitable measures such as providing them with liveable wages and safe working conditions.

“Just do it*”

*Only if it benefits public opinion and does not empower those abused in our private institutions

Perhaps the joke’s on us for missing the Asterix.