Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Nike tweeted a video telling people not to turn their back on racism with a play on its iconic slogan: “For once, don’t do it.” Nike’s post was even retweeted by bitter business rival Adidas.
The brand has built up permission to talk on the topic, in significant part thanks to Nigel Powell. The native Brit joined the company in 1999 and has risen up the ranks, becoming CCO in 2013 and adding EVP to his title in 2018.
According to The New York Times, he stepped in when Nike almost cut ties with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and no NFL team would sign him.
Given what subsequently transpired, Kaepernick has become even more heroic to Nike fans for standing up (or in his case, kneeling) in protest against police brutality. He has also gained sympathy from the general public. A recent Harris Poll found 61% of Americans think Kaepernick deserves an apology from the NFL, which has admitted it was wrong in not listening to players' protests earlier.
But Nike’s external stance on racism has garnered mixed reaction. Critics have pointed out there isn’t one Black person on its executive leadership team. If Nike wants to keep being part of the conversation, it is going to need to look inward and make internal changes.