By Ken Reed
Nike is expected to release a new LeBron James shoe this fall with a price tag of approximately $300. In doing so, they will be exploiting the sports hero worship mindset of millions of young Americans, including poor inner city youth. (Who else is the target for these shoes? It certainly isn’t middle-aged males.)
As they prepare for the launch of their $300 sneaker, Nike is whining about a drop in their gross profit margin from 44% to 43%. It’s so hard to feel sorry for Nike while average Americans struggle in an ongoing recession – and when considering that the typical small business gross profit margin in this country is between 25% and 35%.
Of course a $300 sneaker — manufactured overseas, potentially in sweat shop conditions (Nike has a track record with sweat shops) — targeted at impressionable teenagers would go a long way toward boosting Nike’s profit margin.
Gouging is nothing new for Nike. The Oregon company has been gouging consumers since the advent of its Air Jordan line of sneakers in 1985. But the gouging has intensified in recent years. Consider that Nike is expected to unveil a new Air Jordan in December for $185, a 33% increase in price over the ’85 model when adjusted for inflation.
Targeting the nation’s youth with a $300 LeBron shoe is simply unethical. It can also spark violence among teenagers who see the LeBron shoes as an out-of-reach status symbol.
“It’s the consumer’s choice after all, but it’s insensitive to market a $300 shoe to kids and teenagers as people are going back to school and struggling to buy school supplies,” says Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “This is not food, this is not rent, it’s a single pair of sneakers.”
Nike’s move toward a $300 basketball shoe is more than just insensitive. It’s one more example in the company’s long history of a profits-at-all-costs approach to business.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
For more on League of Fans’ past work regarding Nike & LeBron James, see:
Nader and League of Fans Ask LeBron James to Support Workers’ Rights in Nike Factories – December 4, 2003
Nader & League of Fans ask LeBron James to help workers in Nike factories – March 21, 2007
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.”
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.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
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