Nike’s CEO on George Floyd Killing: Many of Us Are Experiencing Heavy Grief

As much of the country reels from the death of George Floyd — who has become only the latest victim in a recent string of killings of African Americans at the hands of police officers and other would-be authority figures — Nike Inc. president CEO John Donahoe is making it clear where the brand stands.

In an internal memo sent to Nike staffers today, and obtained by FN, Donahoe tells Swoosh employees that he “can’t stop thinking about the individuals impacted,” listing several people of color to die under controversial circumstances or face blatant racism in the U.S. in recent weeks, “Ahmaud Arbery. Christian Cooper. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.”

“The horrible killings and racist actions serve as a sickening reminder of what too many people live through every day in America,” he added. “It is absolutely wrong what’s happening in our communities, to our friends and family members.“

Over the past 48 hours protests have erupted in Minneapolis as scores of people gather to express outrage over the killing of Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, Devin Chauvin.

Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes during an arrest and a video taken of the incident showed Floyd telling the officer he was unable to breathe. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Four officers who were involved in Floyd’s death were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

And today, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Chauvin was arrested and is facing third-degree murder and manslaughter charges. Additional charges are expected for the other officers involved.

Floyd’s death has sparked outrage across the country and has compelled notable individuals to speak out, including former U.S. president Barack Obama, celebrities such as Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian West and Nike athlete LeBron James.

Across the brand’s social media channels this evening, Nike posted a black and white text video with the hashtag #untilweallwin.

“For once, don’t do it. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us,” the text reads. “Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent. Don’t think you can’t be part of the change. Let’s all be part of the change.”

It’s a message that Donahoe, who was appointed to Nike’s top post last year and succeeded longtime chief Mark Parker, doubled down on in his note to the brand’s employees. Donahoe’s tone is also not dissimilar to a message sent by Parker in 2016 when he notably threw support behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I’ve been asking myself how to respond during times like these, both as a citizen and as a member of the Nike family,” Donahoe wrote. “This is a place where we want to bring our complete selves to what we do, working on behalf of three brands — Nike, Jordan and Converse — that stand for the human spirit. And yet I know in recent days many of us have been experiencing feelings of heavy grief as we work.”

The memo continues: “Let me be as clear as I can: Nike is opposed to bigotry. We are opposed to hatred and inequality in all its forms, indirect and overt. While Nike cannot solve injustice, I believe we have a responsibility to work toward addressing it to the best of our ability. What we can do is inspire and empower ourselves and others to action – and try to help shape a better society by serving as a beacon of hope and resilience.”

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