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NIKE'S KNIGHT RESPONDS TO CONGRESSIONAL CRITICISM
Published November 20, 1997
Nike Chair Phil Knight "defended his company's labor practices" yesterday in a letter to congressional critics, and "extended an invitation for members of Congress to tour the facilities to see for themselves," according to Scott Sonner of the AP. One of the members who spearheaded the letter to Nike, U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), said, "If Nike will give us freedom of access and let us talk to those workers we want to and go where we want to, it might be an interesting idea." Responding to the letter written by Sanders and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, and signed by 50 colleagues, Knight said the lawmakers should "become more familiar with Nike's operations," and added that Nike's commitment to the protection of its workers "is unparalleled in the footwear and apparel industry." Knight: "You should know that we have created and currently directly support nearly 15,000 jobs in the U.S." But Sanders responded to Knight's letter by adding, "This means that in a company which spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year in advertising in this country and which controls the lion's share of the sneaker market here, only 3 percent of your workers are employed in the United States" (AP, 11/20). MORE FALLOUT: An editorial in the HARTFORD COURANT, entitled, "Nike's Dirty Business In Vietnam," said that Nike "can no longer claim ignorance" against charges of poor working conditions abroad. From the editorial: "Could some of [Nike's] millions be used, instead, to provide better work conditions in Nike plants? And might not these athletes ask a few tough questions about the labor practices of the company?" (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/19). TAR HEALED? In Raleigh, editorial writer Jim Jenkins comments on UNC-Chapel Hill students criticizing Nike's marketing partnership with the university: "[Y]ou can't blame a bizillion-dollar shoe company for trying to sell stuff and making deals toward that end. ... So that shouldn't make anyone mad at Nike. Instead, let's direct the attention where it belongs -- squarely with the university's leaders" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/20).