NIKE, PART II: OREGONIAN GOES ON-SIGHT AND TALKS WITH KNIGHT
In Portland, Jeff Manning, who spent a month in Asia
examining Nike and other companies' business practices,
debuted part one of his three-part series on Sunday that
included a "rare" interview with Nike Chair Phil Knight.
Manning wrote that Nike products "more than doubled" over
the past three years, "forcing the company and its
subcontractors to crank up production. That, in turn,
increased the heat on workers and, in some cases, led to
outright abuse. The resulting backlash promises to dog Nike
well into the 21st century." Manning: "Nike has become an
international incident." Knight is "by turns furious and
philosophical" abouth the criticism: "For whatever reason,
we've been the poster boy on globalization. That's a very
emotional topic" (Portland OREGONIAN, 11/9).
WORKING HISTORY: Manning traced Nike's working
relationships with Asian factories and wrote that by '97,
"that network spanned 33 countries on four continents and
had presented Nike with a complex set of issues, many
cultural differences and occupational health standards." In
the interview, Knight said the labor controversy is not
hurting business, even with a 20% drop in stock price since
January 1. Knight: "I don't attribute that to the fact that
we're getting any sort of resistance from our core
customer." Nike officials say that critics are "unfairly
singling out their company and are distorting" the issue.
Knight: "Nike creates a lot of emotion. A lot of that
emotion is positive. But there's a flip side to that. ...
The people who are turned off by the emotion that we
generate really want to believe these things. They
basically view us as a rebel that should be taken down."
Manning: "As serious as Nike's image problem has become, the
company has no plans to change its hugely profitable
subcontracting strategy. The cost-cutting expertise of the
subcontractors produces profit margins and cash that
domestic manufactures find hard to match" (OREGONIAN, 11/9).