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Nike CEO Acknowledges Virgil Abloh’s Death in Q2 Earnings Call Before Discussing Any Results

When Nike reported earnings for the second quarter on Monday, the call with investors started out a little more somber than usual.

Before discussing any of the company’s financial results and outlook moving forward, Nike CEO John Donahoe took a moment to call out the recent passing of Virgil Abloh, a renowned designer who frequently collaborated with Nike and the Jordan brand.

Abloh, who was 41, died in late November after a two year battle with cancer. He was the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections since 2018, and had led his own streetwear brand Off-White since 2012. 

In the wake of the designer’s death, influential figures such as Pharrell Williams, Hailey Baldwin and Offset, and fashion leaders like Carine Roitfeld, Ken Downing and Steven Kolb, mourned the loss of the visionary online.

“Since 2016, Virgil has been a beloved member of the Nike Jordan and Converse family,” Donahoe said in a call with investors, before diving into his company’s performance. “He was a brilliant creative force who shared a passion for challenging the status quo and pushing forward a new vision while inspiring multiple generations along the way. But what stood out to me personally about Virgil was his humility and his humanity. We offer our condolences to the many who shared a connection with Virgil. He will be missed greatly.”

In 2017, Abloh was awarded the Shoe of the Year at the 2017 Footwear News Achievement Awards for the Air Jordan 1 from his “The Ten” collection. In his acceptance speech, he said that his Nike “The Ten” lineup would not have been possible without his “intern spirit,” an ambitious and driven mindset that helped push him to accomplish new things. It helped that throughout the process, Nike was game for almost anything, he said.

“Nike is progressive. They easily could have been like, ‘Don’t do this. You can’t have the heel counter exposed — that needs to be covered.’ Instead, they said, ‘We did a collaboration to find new space,’” Abloh told FN in 2017, about his take on the iconic Air Jordan 1 silhouette.

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