When last we wrote you in December, 2003 regarding your relationship with Nike and with the workers who produce the Nike products you endorse, you were just one month into your rookie season and six months into your reported 7 year, $90 million contract with Nike. Neither you nor your agent replied to our letter.
Since that time, Nike has admitted, through self-monitoring, that its contracted factories are places where extraordinarily low wages, physical and sexual abuse, restrictions of bathroom use and other human rights abuses take place. Finally acknowledging problems that worker’s rights advocates have been exposing for well over a decade is a responsible step for Nike, as is its important disclosure of factory locations. But this acknowledgment and disclosure does not mean the problems are being addressed.
As we expressed in our previous letter, Nike products are synonymous with sweatshops in developing nations, and the company still chooses to maximize profits on the backs of workers who live in poverty and whose human rights are unprotected. We ask that you support justice for these people.
Mr. James, pro athletes are not unlike most people in this country who tend not to believe that they have the power to influence change. Some, however, know they have the power but are afraid that speaking out publicly could disrupt their positions personally, professionally, commercially, or in the media.
But there are others. For example, athletes like Etan Thomas, Steve Nash, Carlos Delgado, Martina Navratilova, Adonal Foyle, Adalius Thomas, Josh Howard, Adam Morrison and others have all raised their voices against the war and occupation of Iraq.
Stephon Marbury has spoken out in a different way. Through direct action, Marbury has launched his own basketball sneaker, which retails for about $15. He has challenged the entire basketball sneaker industry, in part, to present inner-city kids with an affordable (yet still stylish and well-made) alternative to the $150 shoes that you and others endorse. That Marbury’s shoes, produced by Steve and Barry’s, are made in China suggests it is likely they are manufactured under sweatshop factory conditions, given that independent trade unions are illegal in China. Hopefully Marbury’s efforts toward positive change will soon lead him to address worker’s rights as well.
Mr. James, as someone who enjoys unsurpassed commercial influence and with it, great negotiating power, you are in a unique position to stand up for the people who make the products you endorse. We urge you to let Nike know that you support the rights of those workers by demanding that:
– Nike insist its contractors pay a living wage, under safe working conditions, that allows workers to meet their basic needs, and that Nike pay contractors enough to do this;
– Nike insist its contractors recognize independent unions and that factory management collectively bargain with these unions in good faith; and
– Nike agree to a program of factory monitoring through international unions and human rights organizations that are credible and completely independent of Nike.
You have a chance to make an impact around the world not just with your basketball playing ability, but for your generosity as a human being in helping to improve working conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers.
We look forward to your response. Should you or your agent require more than a letter to respond, we can arrange for two of the workers from Nike factories overseas to travel to the U.S. and meet with you personally so they can convey their eyewitness accounts. Please let us know by April 16, 2007.
League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon