WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court heard arguments April 23 for Nike v. Kasky, Nike's appeal of a California Supreme Court ruling that PR is not free speech.
The California Supreme Court ruled last year that Nike's comments made in a letter to the editor are commercial speech. Nike wrote the letter in response to criticism from activists about Nike's labor practices.
The court ruled such speech must be held to the same standard as advertising, as it is intended to promote sales. The court ruled 4-3 that Mark Kasky of San Francisco could sue Nike for its statements disputing workshop-condition accusations.
Nike's supporters argued that PR statements are "part of the marketplace of ideas protected by the First Amendment," according to media reports of the Supreme Court hearing. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, the Bush administration's top lawyer, argued that the California Supreme Court gave too much authority to private corporate critics, and "that anyone with a whim, a grievance, and a filing fee can become a government-licensed censor."
But Nike's opponents argued that when a company speaks, it must tell the truth or face the legal consequences.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision by June.