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Nike Is For Equality: Unless You Make Its Shoes

Nike is a hypocritical corporation.

Nets Cavaliers Basketball
Tony Dejak

We are not equal. Every single one of us is different. We all have different skills and talents and heights and colors and hair and body part sizes. If I had been born with LeBron James's athletic talents, guess what, I'd be playing in the NBA. Chances are you would have too. LeBron James doesn't work harder than I do and he probably doesn't work harder than you do either.

LeBron's been unequally blessed with athletic talent relative to the rest of the country and he's used those athletic talents to make as much money as possible. Good for him, that's how capitalism works, we all try to sell our labor for the highest possible price and if enough of us can do that, the country flourishes and our economy prospers. It's basic economics.     

You know what else is basic economics? Making your products overseas with cheap labor so you can maximize your profits when you ship that product back into the United States. What does it cost Nike to make a pair of LeBron's shoes? Reports are that the latest Air Jordan's total cost is around $16.25 -- it costs $10.75 for materials, $2.43 for labor, overhead is $2.10, and factory profit is at $0.97. The most recent LeBron shoe costs $175 on FootLocker's website. Assuming costs are roughly the same for those shoes this means the potential profit built into one of these shoes, profit that goes to Nike and the eventual retailers, is nearly $160.

How can Nike make that much money on a pair of shoes?

By making the shoes overseas and paying workers an average of $3 a day. 

Since I'm a capitalist who believes in making as much money as you possibly can, I don't begrudge Nike for taking advantage of virtual slave labor wages to produce its shoes overseas -- the average Indonesian Nike worker makes 1/76th of what an American factory worker would make doing the same job. But don't you think it's a bit hypocritical for the company's new tag line to be "If we can be equals in sport, we can be equals everywhere," while treating the people who make your products unequally?

The main message of the new Nike ad, which you can watch here, is "Equality should have no boundaries." (Presumably Nike means only boundaries within the United States only since they are violating their own rule once you leave the boundaries of our country.) 

Here are some of the other taglines that Nike tosses out during the ad:

"Opportunity should not discriminate." 

"The ball should bounce the same for everyone." 

"Worth should outshine color." 

LeBron James says: "We can be equals everywhere." 

And the ad ends with this tagline on the screen: "Equality has no boundaries."

First, all of these things are indisputably true already in athletics. Sports, interestingly, is the ultimate meritocracy, nothing matters but your ability to play well. And I think everyone reading this would agree. Race, gender, sexual interest, religion, none of it matters. If a lesbian atheist who advocated for anarchy could play quarterback as well as Tom Brady, she'd be starting in the NFL. If a gay, transgender Muslim could score goals like Messi, he'd/she'd be playing soccer for $50 million a year. 

Teams and fans don't care what you believe if you can average a triple double, put up a perfect passer rating, score goals in soccer or the NHL or hit 45 home runs a year in baseball. All that matters is your production. But, you know, that's actually an incredibly conservative position -- sports is the ultimate meritocracy, the primacy of an individual's talent outweighs everything else. All that matters is individual talent. 

So Nike is advocating for a situation that already exists in American sports -- we are all already equal between the lines. The best man, or woman, wins. And by wins I mean makes millions of dollars and gets to star in a television commercial about equality even though your talents are not equal with anyone else's which is why you're rich and in a sports commercial and everyone else is not.   

But if Nike truly believes that "Equality should have no boundaries," shouldn't overseas virtual slave labor not exist in Nike factories? Or, better yet, shouldn't Nike make its product in America and treat American factory workers, the same people who it's asking to pay $175 for new LeBron shoes for their kids, equally under American law?

Most people won't ask these questions, they'll just mindlessly share and praise Nike for coming out in favor of equality -- even though there isn't a single person of power advocating for inequality in America today -- and the typical sports media drones at MSESPN will utter their typical laudatory praise of LeBron and Tiger Woods and Serena Williams and whomever else Nike features in this ad. 

But the more interesting question you should be asking is this, isn't it the height of hypocrisy for Nike, a company that treats its foreign workers unequally compared to its American employees, to try and make even more billions off American consumers by selling equality in America when it doesn't live up to that own stardard itself?

We are all equal under American law -- except for some minorities who receive affirmative action benefits based on the color of their skin, but, hey, it's not inequality if you're receiving preferential treatment based on skin color, right? -- but Nike most assuredly is not treating everyone equal everywhere as it asks us to do in its ad.

While the usual social justice warrior suspects will praise Nike, the simple truth is this, few modern day companies in America today are making more money off treating their workers more unequally than Nike.

Nike made a decision that virtue signalling will sell more of its shoes. That's a strategic business decision and it might well be right, but shouldn't the same social justice warriors who are praising Nike for embracing equality -- I'm going to start making Outkick ads opposed to slavery and I'm going to sell so many damn tshirts! -- actually demand that the company do what its asking everyone else to do?

Of course they should. But that requires intelligence and using your brain and thinking beyond the like and favorites button on Facebook and Twitter. Something that Nike is gambling none of its SJW fans will be willing to actually do.

Sadly, in making this gamble Nike is probably right.

After all, no one ever went broke overestimating the average intelligence of the American consumer.

So salute to Nike for believing so deeply in equality that its paying its average factory worker in Indonesia $3 a day. While you're busy sharing this ad and praising the company for embracing equality everywhere just be glad that you were born in America and don't have to work for $3 a day making LeBron James's shoes in an awful factory in Indonesia.  

But remember, y'all, "Equality should have no boundaries."

I guess that tagline is more likely to sell shoes for Nike than the truth -- "Our profit margin has no morality and knows no boundaries."

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And since I'm going to be shameless like Nike, don't be a pussy, #dbap, and go buy our Outkick gear online here. Unlike Nike's products we actually make our gear in the United States. Plus, remember, we hate slavery, cancer, and death more than Nike.