Nike released a short film as part of the company’s new ‘EQUALITY‘ campaign, but people have criticized it for being hypocritical over low-paid factory workers.
LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kevin Durant, Victor Cruz, Gabby Douglas, Megan Rapinoe, and Dalilah Muhammad make cameo appearances in the ad. In the ad, the athletes are shown in what appears to be the projects in an undisclosed urban neighborhood.
The ad is shot entirely in black and white. Michael B. Jordan speaks as an offscreen narrator and talks about the importance of diversity, saying, “Worth should outshine color. The ball should bounce the same for everyone. If we can be equals here, we can be equals everywhere.” Playing in the background throughout the ad is Alicia Keys’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Nike’s ad has a total of over four million views, but the company’s penchant for outsourcing and underpaying its workers has belied their campaign’s message. The ‘EQUALITY’ campaign is not Nike’s first hypocritical stance against socioeconomic issues.
The sneaker brand launched an onslaught of similarly inspiring ads during the 2016 Rio Olympics, including its famous “Da Da Ding” commercial featuring women athletes of color. In 2008, Nike jumpstarted the “Girl Effect” campaign, which worked to encourage female empowerment. “Girl Effect” was endorsed worldwide. Notable advocates such as Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama all supported the campaign.
But while Nike’s ads and campaigns push for equality and human rights, its policies remain antiquated and unfair. The company has become notoriously famous for exploiting impoverished countries by capitalizing on the cheap labor. Nearly a third of Nike contractors operate in Vietnam. The brand has stationed so many factories over there, it serves as Vietnam’s primary employer, with 80 percent of its employees being women and girls.
Investigative journalist Maria Hengeveld of Slate conducted in-depth research on the issue, interviewing 18 female Nike factory workers from five different factories throughout Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Hengeveld’s interviewees relayed their working conditions as poor, hours long, and pay incredibly low. All 18 women admitted their wages were not even enough to support their families’ basic needs. Wages range around $150 USD to $400 USD a month depending on the employee’s seniority.
Despite the obvious abuse and public coverage, reports like Hengeveld’s have done little to pressure the sneaker brand from reforming their factory’s policies. Nike recently banned the WRC (Workers Rights Consortium) from entering their factories; that group previously acted as an independent judge of the working conditions in factories.
According to the WRC’s 2016 reports, Nike’s Hansae Vietnam factory in Ho Chi Minh City was found with numerous violations upon inspection, including extensive wage theft, forced overtime, pregnancy discrimination, illegal denial of sick leave and many other infractions. For at least a decade, the WRC has shared their reports with Nike and conducted numerous audits, emphasizing the severity of the violations found within Nike’s factories.
Despite their many human rights endorsements and campaigns, Nike has yet to practice what it preaches.
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