Nike CEO wants to get house in order as viral ad wins support and criticism


Nike CEO and president John Donahoe has revealed in an internal memo that the sportswear giant is prioritising getting its own house in order as it strives to shape a better society. In the memo posted on CNBC and Hypebeast, the CEO said Nike must continue to foster and grow a culture where diversity, inclusion and belonging is valued and is real.

Nike needs to be better than society as a whole.

The brand was recently raved about on social media after it released a video asking viewers not to "pretend there isn't a problem in America". The text-only video came in light of the death of George Floyd, who died of injuries after suffering from police brutality and as protests continue to break out across the US. Nonetheless, the ad also copped flak for not having a more diverse board despite its support to the Black community and athletes.

In addition, along with the release of the memo, Nike also announced a  US$40 million commitment over the next four years to support the Black community in the US on behalf of the NIKE, Jordan and Converse brands collectively. This commitment will be focused on investing in and supporting organisations that put social justice, education and addressing racial inequality in America at the center of their work. Craig Williams, president of Jordan brand, will be heading up the initiative with a small task force.

Donahoe said while the brand has made some progress, he has heard from many that there is still a long way to go. “We must capitalise on the passion, energy and commitment that we are feeling right now and translate it into real, sustained effort and concrete progress. We can’t simply go back to ‘normal’, because the normal we knew a week ago, a month ago, a year ago isn’t acceptable – not for far too many of us,” he explained.

The sportswear giant has long stood against hatred and inequality. In 2018, Nike released the advert, titled "Dream Crazy" where it featured NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who had knelt during the national anthem at NFL games in the US to protest against police brutality. The ad led to many consumers taking to social media to burn their Nike products. US President Donald Trump too tweeted his displeasure, calling the ad "hard to watch". He added, "Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way?"

Hashtags such as "JustBurnIt" and "BoycottNike" also surfaced on Twitter, with some netizens suggesting other suitable national icons for the Nike's campaign, including Martin Luther King Junior. 

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