Update: Nike Issues Statement Supporting Employees 1:30 p.m. ET
Nike Inc. has issued a statement in support of the decision by several of its employees to sit out of work today as an act of solidarity amid national unrest over racial injustice.
“We support our teammates who have chosen to take time off to stand in solidarity with athletes in response to the racialized violence and systemic racism experienced by the Black community,” the company said.
What We Reported Earlier 11 a.m. ET
Black Nike employees and their allies are sitting out this week in protest of police brutality and racial injustice across America, FN has learned.
Some of those employees, in a symbol of solidarity with those experiencing and fighting against racial injustice, have activated their out-of-office email alerts and are providing resources to help support the ongoing movement to end racism and inequality in the United States.
The message begins, “Today I’m out of office because…” then goes on to list the names of several Black people killed by the police, including Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. It also offers a call to action for, Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot and paralyzed by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisc., this month.
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“While I am out of office I will be using my time to combat social injustices,” the bounce back message, viewed by FN, reads. “You can contact local and state officials to demand justice for Blake and for the police officers involved to be held accountable.” (According to sources, the sit-out was agreed to yesterday, with participants turning on their out-of-office alerts Thursday afternoon.)
The move by Nike employees comes as much of the nation is fixated on racial injustice and the prevalence of police brutality against Black people in the United States. The athletic world in particular has been at the forefront of both conversation and action with the NBA and WNBA this week sitting out their games to send a definitive message regarding the need for more marked change.
Today, several prominent sneaker boutiques — including Kith, Social Status, Unknwn and A Ma Maniére — announced that they would close up shop in protest of racial injustice.
For its part, Nike announced early on its support of the NBA and WNBA players and other athletes protesting “the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake.”
“We remain committed to addressing the issue of systemic racism experienced by the Black community,” its statement continued.
Nike competitor Adidas sent a similar message, posting on its social media channels: “We support all players and coaches across sport who are using their platforms to demand justice. Black lives matter.”
Amid national unrest over racial injustice, which heightened in June following the police killing of George Floyd, athletic brands, in particular, faced added scrutiny over their role in supporting Black people, who serve as their core customer demographic.
Nike — known for its provocative marketing and early support of the BLM movement — was arguably among the first major footwear players to send a staunch message regarding racism in America, posting in late May: “For once, don’t do it.”
That moment was followed by a $140 million commitment from the company and longtime partner Michael Jordan toward the fight for racial equality. Then, in a June 11 memo sent to Nike Inc. staffers and obtained by FN, CEO John Donahoe said the company was ampliflying its efforts around diversity and inclusion in a bid to get its “house in order.” Nike, noted Donahoe, would now focus on four key areas to improve race relations internally: representation, professional development, inclusion and belonging and education. (The company, at the time, led the corporate movement to acknowledge Juneteenth as a paid company holiday.)
“As I have listened deeply during my first six months and over the past few weeks, what I have learned is that many have felt a disconnect between our external brand and your internal experience,” he wrote to employees. “You have told me that we have not consistently supported, recognized and celebrated our own Black teammates in a manner they deserve. This needs to change.”
Shortly after the brand pledged to double down on D&I, it shouldered internal dissension when an Instagram page, Black at Nike, surfaced. The page compiled unfavorable allegations against the brand’s leadership on issues of racial discrimination, diversity and inclusion.
Nike has since vowed to continue in its efforts to boost D&I, including with its new D&I task force, helmed by Black leaders at the company.