Over the past few weeks, as contentious relations between African-American communities and police reached new heights, Nike-sponsored athletes LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have all spoken out on racial injustice as well as the killings of police officers in Dallas.
On Friday, in an open letter to Nike’s 32,000 employees — 52 percent of which identify as non-white, according to the brand’s 2014/15 Business Sustainability report — the CEO said the company “has a long history of supporting the marginalized and those whose voice is not always heard.”
Parker expressed concern over the police shooting of Alton Sterling, which took place in Louisiana; the police killing of Philando Castile in Minnesota; and the killing of five police officers at a protest in Dallas.
“I am proud that Nike stands against discrimination in any form. We stand against bigotry. We stand for racial justice. We firmly believe the world can improve,” Parker writes.
Nike’s chief said the company’s VP of diversity and inclusion, Antoine Andrews will, work with the firm’s North American leadership team in the coming weeks to facilitate meetings at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., as well as in the company’s New York, Chicago and Los Angeles offices to “to allow us to talk about what we are facing together.”
Parker ended the note with the popular hashtags: #blacklivesmatter #stoptheviolence.
This is not the first time Nike or its CEO has publicly voiced support for minority groups.
Earlier this month, Nike announced that it would co-sponsor the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) world championships, along with Adidas, taking place in Portland, Ore., in August. In March, Nike was among the U.S. corporations throwing their support behind the Equality Act — federal legislation that would give the same protections to LGBT people as those given to other protected groups under federal law. The brand has also released a collection of sneakers, Be True, celebrating the LBGT community.
In the two days since Parker’s letter was disseminated, another tragic event — the killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, La. — has added more tension and uncertainty to the mix.
Read Parker’s full letter, which originally appeared in Fortune magazine, below:
Like many of you, I’m struggling to make sense of the incomprehensible. We have experienced heartbreaking, disturbing and challenging times in the United States. I have watched with sorrow the events that took place across the U.S. The loss and pain experienced in Minnesota, Louisiana and Dallas have left communities, institutions and even the nation tested. Our thoughts are with all those impacted and their families and friends.
Nike has a long history of supporting the marginalized and those whose voice is not always heard. In many cases our athletes have eloquently argued for change and to stop the situation. Last night, at the ESPYs, we heard athletes like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul powerfully speak out about the issues facing society. Others, like Serena Williams, have also made their voices heard.
As a company, I’m proud that Nike takes a stand on issues that impact all of us, our athletes and society as a whole. And I am proud that Nike stands against discrimination in any form. We stand against bigotry. We stand for racial justice. We firmly believe the world can improve. We are a diverse company and, as we stated in our recent Sustainable Business Report, are firmly committed to making it more diverse and inclusive.
We cannot solve all these profound, longstanding and systemic issues. However, one thing will always be clear: discrimination in any form and racial injustice are destructive forces. And talking about these issues can help find peace and paths forward. I firmly believe we are at our best when we engage and listen to those around us, in our communities at home and at work. It’s impossible to leave our emotions and experiences outside the work place – they inform us and make us who we are.
We don’t have the answers, but it’s important to try to talk about the issues we’re facing. Antoine Andrews, VP of Diversity and Inclusion, will work with the North American leadership team in the coming weeks to help facilitate meetings at WHQ and in our NY, Chicago and LA offices to allow us to talk about what we are facing together. Conversations don’t solve everything, but dialogue will help. Our voices matter. This is your company and we want you to be heard. In difficult times, it’s important to speak up. We cannot change the past, but we can impact the future.
Chairman, President and CEO, NIKE, Inc.