Background: I remain very interested in the Nike case. It seems as though Nike has not fully resolved the conflict they face between cutting costs and treating workers fairly. Despite the many improvements the company has made after their fiscal struggles in 1998, I still am very skeptical that Nike is producing their apparel in the most morally correct fashion. The problem may not be nearly as bad as it was in the late 1990s, but I think a problem with worker exploitation still exists for the company. Nike sponsors many elite college athletic programs, including the Florida State football team, which won the National Championship last January. I wondered what would happen if I discussed the issue of Nike exploiting workers with a Florida State player.
Me: So tell me about your uniform. Obviously you guys are sponsored by Nike, and are given access to many different brand new jersey and cleat styles throughout the season.
FSU Player: I love our uniforms. They are iconic for the school. Ever since high school I’ve been a huge fan of what Nike does for Florida State.
Me: What makes you like the uniform so much?
FSU Player: We look cool, that’s the bottom line. Plus being sponsored by Nike gives us extra credibility as well. Also, I love free stuff. Nike gives us tons of other apparel. I couldn’t tell you how many awesome Nike Florida State sweatshirts and t-shirts I have in my dorm room. I’m always giving them out to my friends.
Me: I’m guessing you’ve never been told that Nike has a history of seriously exploiting their workers overseas?
FSU Player: I did not know that.
Me: Would your opinion of Nike change if you did?
FSU Player: Honestly, probably not. They give me tons of free stuff, and I look cool on game-days. I can’t really ask for more than that.
Me: So you wouldn’t want Florida State to be sponsored by a different company instead due to Nike’s issues with working conditions?
FSU Player: No, Nike’s the best and I wouldn’t want to give that up. Other than maybe Under Armour, no one is even close to Nike. Especially since they sponsor at 32 NFL teams, Nike just has such a dominance of the industry that I think every school in the country would want them to sponsor their athletic programs.
Review: I wrote this somewhat to parallel the Mike Daisey and Apple issue. After originally hearing Mike Daisey’s first podcast, I felt awful and was very angry towards Apple. That being said, I wasn’t about to throw out my MacBook or iPhone to buy something from another company. I think the same kind of thinking applies here. Nike and Apple are so dominant that people are more willing to look past transgressions the companies may have made overseas, especially if it is more convenient for them to turn a blind eye.