#BoycottNike: Just Do It

Nike signs activist to advertising campaign despite having long history of human rights violations


The Nike ad that caused the controversy shows a close up of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick.

Caleb Slater, Editor in Chief

Note: This is an opinion piece. DM North Media does not endorse one view or the other. 

Everyone wants to belong to a cause. For some, that cause may be campaigning for a local politician. For others, that cause might be going vegan. 

However, in my opinion, the cause behind the current boycott of Nike is simply ridiculous. 

For context, Nike is a brand that has endured many boycotts over the years. From the early 1970s to the early 2000’s, the athletic brand fended off rumors that their world-famous products were created using inhumane child-labor techniques in sweatshops overseas.  

These rumors were eventually proven to be true, despite Nike denying them numerous times throughout the late 90s. Why, you may ask, wouldn’t Nike own up to being caught in the act?  


After Nike moved its production overseas, they saw an immense increase in profits. Nike director Todd McKean mentioned in a 2001 interview with Tribune Business that their attitude at the time was, “We don’t own the factories, we can’t control what goes on there.”  

Only after protests at over 40 universities (and massive boycotting) did Nike begin to monitor the factories, attempting to address the child labor issue plaguing their sales.

Despite this, there are still concerns about Nike’s practices in production to this day.  

In early 2000, the New York Times reported that Nike had blocked a large independent worker’s rights organization known as the Worker’s Rights Consortium from monitoring its factories. Instead, Nike opted to allow a separate organization known as the Fair Labor Organization to monitor the safety of the work conditions for their employees. 

The catch to this is that Nike co-founded the Fair Labor Organization.  

Essentially, Nike denied independent investigations into their labor conditions in favor of an organization that may be much more lenient towards them.  

You may be curious as to how any of this fits into the current boycott of Nike. 

The current Nike boycott is based around outrage at Colin Kaepernick—the man who kneeled during a few football games as a protest of police violence—being signed to a long-term advertising campaign.  

People are so angry that Nike would sign someone as ‘un-American’ as Colin Kaepernick, that they seem to forget that Nike has never necessarily cared about America in any way. Nike has always pursued what any business does, and that is profit—by any means necessary.  

For about 40 years, Nike violated the human rights of children all over the world in sweatshops. Only recently did they begin to change their actions (despite rumors still lingering claiming otherwise).  

Only 46 of Nike’s 542 factories are in the United States, according to their official manufacturing website. While Nike was founded in America, its founder, Phil Knight, planned to outsource production to other countries as early as the 1960s, as reported by Business Insider.   

The signing of Colin Kaepernick is a marketing ploy no doubt, and it’s clear they don’t truly care what Kaepernick kneeled for in the first place, based on their long history of blatantly ignoring human rights.

Kaepernick’s signing is a shock to the many who have been paying attention to Nike’s history for sure, given the ironic circumstances of their past. However, the current boycott is based entirely on the false implication that Nike has ever been about anything more than profit.  

They stand to make more money and will exploit whoever they can to do so.