Nike Investors Push for More Transparency Around Political Spending in Wake of Kaepernick Ad

A group of Nike shareholders are pushing for the company to ramp up its public disclosures around political contributions and will bring the matter to a vote today.

The sportswear giant staked a place in the political arena this month with the release of a “Just Do It” campaign starring  Colin Kaepernick. The former NFL quarterback started a controversy when he began kneeling during the pregame national anthem to protest racial injustice. The campaign quickly prompted backlash from President Donald Trump and many of his supporters, while eliciting praise from fans who approved of the brand’s decisive message. (The company’s stock, after an initial drop, has also since hit a record high.)

The motion for more political spending transparency is being led by Investor Voice, an investor advocacy group, and Newground Social Investment, a values-driven investment fund. “As long-term shareholders of Nike, we support transparency and accountability in corporate electoral spending,” they said in a statement, pointing in particular to disclosures about “trade associations that are used for election-related activities,” which don’t release public contribution data.

The proposal will be voted on at Nike’s annual meeting in Beaverton, Ore., and the company’s board has urged shareholders to vote against it, contending in a statement that its disclosure practices already give investors sufficient information and that revealing more would put it at a “competitive disadvantage by revealing strategies and priorities designed to protect the economic future of Nike, its employees and its shareholders.”

“Nike is committed to the highest ethical standards when engaging in political activities,” reads the statement. “We have strong governance practices and accountability in corporate spending on political activities, and maintain a level of transparency that we believe allows shareholders to have the information they need to make informed decisions.”

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