Days after the firm made headlines for including controversial ex-footballer Colin Kaepernick in a major campaign, Nike CEO Mark Parker is throwing the brand’s name behind another polarizing issue: immigration.
Parker, who is also the company’s president and chairman, this week took a public stance against the repeal of a 30-year-old Oregon law — often referred to as a “sanctuary law” — that limits the use of state and local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws. (People have come to refer to Oregon as a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants because of the decades-old statute.)
“Nike employs people from all over the world; we can attest to the unique value, contributions and innovations that people from diverse backgrounds add to Nike and to Oregon’s culture and economy,” Parker wrote in a formal opposition to Ballot Measure 105 in the Oregon Voter’s Guide. “Ending Oregon’s sanctuary law will damage Oregon’s long-standing track record as a place that attracts diverse talent from across the globe.”
The move follows a week of controversy for Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike, which this month faced a wave of backlash after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took to social media to unveil his part of a campaign for Nike’s 30th anniversary of “Just Do It.” Kaepernick — who started kneeling during the singing of the national anthem during the 2016 NFL preseason to protest racial injustice and police brutality — has become a polarizing figure in America after some viewed his anthem-kneeling as unpatriotic.
For the latest Nike campaign, a black and white image of Kaepernick appears with the tagline: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Since the reveal — and a television spot later that same week — Nike has faced calls for a boycott as well as criticism from President Donald Trump, who has vehemently opposed anthem-kneeling. At the same time, scores of celebrities and influencers praised the brand’s move, while several reports noted a surge in Nike’s online sales and social media mentions.
Despite the attention the Swoosh received, insiders have pointed out that the brand has a history of provocative marketing and has long endorsed controversial and political causes. Parker notably in 2017 threw support behind the Black Lives Matter movement and also opposed Trump’s so-called Muslim travel ban in a letter to Nike staff.
Columbia Sportswear president and CEO Tim Boyle — who too opposed Trump’s 2017 travel ban — also wrote an opposition to Ballot Measure 105 in the Oregon Voter’s Guide.
“Thanks to Oregon’s culture of openness and looking out for its neighbors, my family was able to emigrate to Oregon from Nazi Germany and live here without fear,” he wrote. “Oregon is enriched by our diversity, and immigrants living in Oregon are part of our families, communities, workplaces and places of worship. Measure 105 does not align with Oregon values.”