FACTs and FAQs about Nike’s advertising contract with the UM

FACT #4. Nike gets cheap, tax-deductible advertising, secret product testing, PR-flack training, prestige, etc.:

Nike’s exclusive ads are on UM property, on UM teams at every key moment, not merely during tuned-out commercials. [Look around.]

Nike gets to use UM employees—who are paid by the public—for private R&D, prohibiting public discussion of results [SAC-1.7].

Nike controls distribution of UM journalism scholarships, aiming less at academic merit than at suitability for Nike PR work [#8, AG].

Nike has the power to design a "New Logo" for the UM, and UM consent is required not to be "unreasonably withheld" [PA-4].

FAQ #4. What’s wrong with Nike ads?

Nike tricks impressionable kids and teens into thinking "it’s gotta be the shoes" that will make them the next Jordan or enable them to claim "I am Tiger Woods". Nike’s billions in TV ads also buys them critical silencethe big media have been slow to investigate Nike’s abuse of workers—and they can expect the same silence from universities.

FACT #5. UM student-athletes and athletic staff lose precious freedoms of expression and self-determination:

Players sometimes wear black arm bands, in mourning. It’s routine freedom of speech. But the contract prohibits UM athletes from taping over their Nike swooshes, in mourning for Nike victims or in proudly disassociating themselves from Nike’s crimes [PSC-6].

The university’s codependence on Nike serves to discourage student-athletes even from raising questions about Nike. A university that respects its student-athletes should allow them freedom to discuss and determine for themselves the source of their athletic gear.

FAQ #5. Are athletes critical of Nike?

Many are. Chris Webber, and even Nike-paid Green Bay Packer and ordained minister Reggie White, openly criticize Nike business practices. More will step forward as word spreads, despite Nike PR lies [#8]. The university has a duty not to stifle reasonable public expression of the consciences of its students and staff. The contract fails this.

FACT #6. UM gets shoes ’n stuff—"donations" indirectly from oppressed workers and gouged consumers:

The athletic department gets about $650,000 per year in gear [AG], less than what Nike pays for a 15-second refrigerator break during the Super Bowl. $300,000 more goes to two head coaches, another $100,000 cash, and four or five scholarships.

FAQ #6. Do we need Nike?

No. Our proud sports tradition began over 100 years before the Nike contract, and will outlive it.

FACT #7. UM and other schools can help change Nike’s behavior by stopping the ads and the critical silence:

The "Just Don’t Do It" Campaign urges the UM to suspend its contract with Nike and calls upon Nike to: pay a living wage, not based on overtime; promote working conditions consistent with human rights; allow workers the freedom to join a union and engage in collective bargaining; allow independent monitoring by local human rights organizations; and allow the redress of claims by workers fired for protesting working conditions.

Similar efforts exist at Arizona, Arizona St., Colorado, Duke, Florida St., Kentucky, North Carolina, Penn St., and other campuses.

FAQ #7. Who makes the decisions around here?

President Bollinger has expressed willingness to reconsider the Nike contract; please consider writing him and/or signing our petition to him. But incredibly, the old athletic director gave Nike the power to force the university to renew the contract in 2000 if Nike "equals" any other offer—with no mention of human rights crimes [PSC-9].

Nike's propaganda lies ...
List of references ...
Nike's labor abuses ...
Nike/UM index ...

To get involved, email nikerights@umich.edu