One week after it released a powerful video message condemning racism and injustice, Nike Inc. is putting significant investment behind the cause.
The athletic giant today announced a $40 million commitment over the next four years to “support the Black community in the U.S. on behalf of the Nike, Jordan and Converse brands.”
The funds will be targeted toward organizations focused on social justice, education and addressing racial inequality in America, the company added.
“Systemic racism and the events that have unfolded across America over the past few weeks serve as an urgent reminder of the continued change needed in our society. We know Black Lives Matter. We must educate ourselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates,” said John Donahoe, Nike Inc. president and CEO. “The Nike Inc. family can always do more but will never stop striving to role model how a diverse company acts. We will continue our focus on being more representative of our consumers while doing our part in the communities we serve.”
In an internal memo sent to Nike staffers this morning and obtained by FN, Donahoe said Craig Williams, president of Jordan Brand, will head up the company’s initiative with a small task force.
Donahoe further noted that the company will share more about its plan to accelerate diversity and inclusion “in the coming weeks.”
“But today, we are uniting around our Black teammates and community,” he wrote.
Nike said its $40 million commitment comes in addition to other investments it has made over the years to provide “support to the communities in which [we] operate.”
Across its social media pages last Friday, the Swoosh drew significant attention when it posted a black and white text video with an explicit anti-racist message: “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 of the video read. “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.”
In addition to a historic retweet from longtime rival Adidas — as well as a repost from running brand Brooks — the video was widely seen as leading the charge for other brands to speak up on the issues of racial injustice.
Still, in recent days, consumers across social media have called on brands to take additional steps beyond messaging — including financial commitments to ending racial injustice as well as improving diversity and inclusion within their internal ranks.
When it comes to the latter, Nike’s chief acknowledged that the company still has work to do.
“But while we strive to help shape a better society, our most important priority is to get out own house in order,” Donahoe wrote to Swoosh employees. “While we have made some progress over the past couple of years, we have a long way to go.”
The make-up of Nike’s workforce, like many in the footwear industry and elsewhere, sees diversity levels fall off at the higher ranks of the organization — whereas lower-ranking staffers tend to be more diverse. It’s an area where the brand has made some progress — particularly over the past two years, after then-CEO Mark Parker committed to accelerated the firm’s D&I efforts.
According to its 2019 “Nike Impact” report, 21.6% of all of the firm’s employees are black, while about 10% of its VPs are black (up from 8% in 2018) and 4.8% are director level or higher (up from 4.5% in 2018).
The largest improvement can be seen on its board of directors, which is now 31% black, up from 23% in 2018.