SBJ/November 17 - 23, 2003/Opinion

Vision, drive, influence make it Knight’s day

For the first time, SportsBusiness Journal and its sister publication, The Sports Business Daily, have combined forces to present one Executive of the Year Award. While we may be rushing the calendar a bit, we trust (and hope) that the last six weeks of 2003 will not mar the outstanding year our winner has had.

Our selection of Nike Chairman and CEO Phil Knight will please some and anger others. Knight and his behemoth company are admired by many for their influence and business acumen, but disliked by others as symbols for all that they think is wrong with sports. Often imitated, rarely equaled, Knight leads a global brand that is polarizing and controversial.

We come to praise Phil Knight. Our story details a man on the edge — on the edge of pop culture, consumer behavior, habits and taste — who is one of the most competitive and interesting managers of the modern era. He is a visionary who is constantly evolving, but he has remained true to one basic tenet that everyone in our business shares — a love of sports. Those who know him say Knight is driven by that feeling, and by the desire to serve the athlete.

The heavy-handed marketing machine, the labor issues, the Svengali-like influence over endorsers and the ubiquitous swoosh turn away many. But when we looked at 2003, one company, one brand, one man, stood apart in terms of accomplishment. It is for those achievements and successes — and for his support of sports — that we honor Phil Knight as our Executive of the Year.

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