Oh, the irony.
When I had first learned of a new LGBT Sports Summit, I was thrilled because it meant we would be bringing about a much-needed discussion about LGBT and human rights issues in sport.
But then I learned that it was going to be sponsored by Nike.
Nike is using the issue of LGBT rights to cover up the fact that it has long neglected human rights. Instead of being able to stamp a “made in the USA” sticker on its products, Nike has long had a tradition of taking advantage of other countries where minimum wage is shockingly lower than in the United States. A 2001 BBC documentary highlighted cases of child labor in Nike factories and showed six girls who worked seven days a week and worked two shifts per day. Furthermore, Nike has even pulled contracts with colleges after student protests exposed the company’s abusive conditions abroad. The supervisors in these factories abroad are so brutal that one worker even said he had his mouth taped shut.
Despite Nike’s claims that the company has since cleaned up it’s act in recent years, it is just yet another attempt by the company to mask it’s abuse and unfair conditions. Just a few months ago, there was a report that workers in an Indonesian Nike factory were intimidated by the military and forced to sign a petition exempting that factory from having to increase wages. According to ABC, there is footage of a supervisor telling the workers that they “have to” sign the petition.
“We got summoned by military personnel that the company hired to interrogate us and they intimidated us,” said one of the employees.
Nike made up some kind of story about how there would be an investigation, but released a statement which said that “Nike expects contract factory workers to be paid at least the minimum wage required by country law.” The problem with this is the whole reason Nike has factories abroad, which is to take advantage of lower minimum wages in that respective country.
So as we hear endless reports about how Nike completely disregards human rights, how can we take anything seriously from them about LGBT rights? The very reason an LGBT sports summit even exists is to bring about discussion and to obviously improve human rights for gay people. The company is only contradicting itself.
Until we start seeing Nike making sincere changes, I don’t see how we can take the company seriously with an LGBT Sports Summit.