Nike’s stock soared some 5 percent, a roughly $6 billion market value increase since Labor Day, in the wake of its controversial advertisement with Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL player largely seen as aligned with Democrats around issues of policing and criminal justice. Yet Nike employees are having it both ways–their political spending has gone more than three times toward Republicans compared to Democrats in this election cycle, according to the Center For Responsive Politics.
Nike employees and its PAC contributed $424,000 to the Republican Party (78 percent of its political contributions) and its candidates so far in this 2018 election cycle, compared to only $122,000 to the Democrats, according to the Center.
Nihal Krishan with the Center For Responsive Politics reports:
With a couple notable exceptions like the 2008 and 2016 election cycles, Nike has a track record of giving much more to Republicans than Democrats in the past decade. During the 2010, 2012 and 2014 election cycles, Nike gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans, with 76 percent, 69 percent and 59 percent of their contributions going to the GOP in each of those cycles respectively. Nearly half of Nike’s political spending has come from individual contributions made by co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny.
I was sad to see Kaepernick previously wearing clothing that targeted police officers, depicting them as pigs–similar imagery used by a man who reportedly murdered two Brooklyn police officers in cold blood. As the sister of a former police officer, Kaepernick’s implication was chilling. After all, it’s police officers of all colors who put their lives on the line to save communities of color. That’s why “By 62 – 34 percent, including 61 – 33 percent among black voters, New Yorkers want police ‘to actively issue summonses or make arrests for so-called quality of life offenses’ in their neighborhood,” according to Quinnipiac University polling.
Yet, even if Kaepernick went too far, it’s also true that police can and should do more to improve community relations, to build trust with the communities they serve and prevent tragic shootings of civilians (and note that Harvard research found police were no more likely to use fatal force against non-whites than whites, e.g. “no racial diﬀerences”). There’s also an urgent call for reforming our nation’s criminal justice system, and it’s been heartening to see such disparate parties like Democrat Van Jones and reality TV star Kim Kardashian joining forces with a Republican White House to bring attention to this desperate need.
So even if I don’t agree with Kaepernick’s kneeling, or his socks, I can appreciate his freedom of speech in this Nike campaign, especially if it can lead to substantive, bipartisan reforms to our criminal justice system. And perhaps that’s what Nike employees are aiming for, too.
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for Edward Conard, Bain Capital founding partner and American Enterprise Institute scholar. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.