Think Nike is progressive because it runs ads campaigns featuring athlete-activists like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe? Well, you'd be mistaken. And you'd have forgotten that the only thing corporations really care about is the bottom line. Judd Legum, writing for Popular Information, explains that the Kaepernick campaign served Nike well to expand its customer base and to make massive amounts of money:
The campaign, in which the company aligned itself with the anti-Trump "resistance," was a runaway success. According to a 2018 report by the New York Times, Nike featured Kaepernick to gain "credibility… with the young, urban market it has long targeted."
It worked. An accompanying television ad featuring Kaepernick generated over 80 million views on social media, generating untold millions in publicity for Nike. A Wall Street analyst called the ads a "stroke of genius" that "spoke to Nike's core consumers in a very Nike-esque provocative way that shows it understands them and the issues that matter to them." In an earnings call with investors, Nike bragged that the Kaepernick campaign produced "record engagement with the brand."
Since Nike is so eager to feature Kaepernick and Rapinoe, who fight so hard for racial and gender justice, that means they're also supporting Democratic candidates that forward social justice issues, right? Wrong. Nihal Krishan, writing for Open Secrets, reported back in 2018 that Nike and its employees donated three times as much money to Republicans than to Democrats in that year's election cycle. Well, seems nothing has changed. Judd Legum, writing for Popular Information, explains that:
On September, 22, 2022, Nike donated $25,000 to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), an organization currently seeking to install pro-Trump extremists in powerful positions across the country.
Over the last four years, Nike has donated a total of $125,000 to the group.
The RGA gives millions of dollars to candidates such as election-denying and total-abortion-ban-loving Kari Lake, who is running for Governor in Arizona and who has famously mocked both Kaepernick and Rapinoe on her social media accounts. Millions of RGA dollars have also been used to support MAGA governors such as Tudor Dixon (MI) and Ron DeSantis (FL). Nike owner Phil Knight has also given big bucks to the RGA, explains Legum:
On September 22, 2022, the same day Nike donated $25,000 to the RGA, Knight donated $250,000. Knight put down Nike's Beaverton, Oregon headquarters as his address. Knight also recently donated $1 million to support Christine Drazan, the anti-abortion Republican candidate for Governor in Oregon. Asked to explain his support for Drazan, Knight said he was "more conservative than Nike." Don't be so sure.
None of this information is the least bit surprising to me, and it also won't change my practices regarding Nike, because it's been years since I bought anything from them anyway. I started boycotting them over their labor practices, which, according to "Good on You"–a company that rates fashion brands based on how sustainable and ethical they are with regard to people, the planet, and animals–still aren't great.
The next time some massive corporation starts using progressive celebrities to sell their goods, let's all remain wary so we don't end up giving money to companies that are supporting far-right candidates.