Nike and its N7 Fund have done some amazing things for Native America. Yet the biggest sports brand on the planet stands on the sidelines of the "Change the Mascot" movement. It is understandable why some of America's biggest companies--Coca Cola and FedEx to name just two --are sitting out the Redskins mascot controversy. Money. Big Money.
But unlike those other Fortune 50 companies, Nike has specifically stated a "commitment to bring sport and all of its benefits to Native American and Aboriginal communities in the United States and Canada."
Of course with that commitment comes business opportunity for Nike, and not merely through the N7 shoes and apparel line. The much more lucrative play comes through the intangible economic benefits that adorn any well-advertised philanthropic venture like the N7 Fund.
It is rather hypocritical for Nike to "help Native American and Aboriginal youth recognize their proud history," yet sell sports merchandise bearing a logo historically associated with bloody Native American scalps when "in-depth studies that show the harm negative stereotypes and 'Indian' sports mascots have on Native youth."
Nike has thus far largely (but not entirely) ducked the Indian mascot controversy. That is in part because although national tribal leaders have lambasted the likes of FedEx for not denouncing the Redskins mascot, they have looked past Nike and N7. Native America has allowed the the world's #1 athletic apparel company to ignore its own social responsibility to denounce racism in professional sports--especially in the form of branded pro sports apparel.
Indeed, without the prominence of Nike and its ever-lasting Swoosh the Redskins mascot might just fade away.
And beyond a Nike pronouncement against the racist Redskins mascot being the proverbial "right thing to do," as sports marketing professionals point out, a new Washington NFL team logo "would be a boon for the National Football League and licensees such as Nike Inc., if previous pro-sports team switches are any indication."
It is time for Nike to walk the walk. They certainly have the shoes in which to do so.
Gabriel “Gabe” Galanda is the Managing Partner at Galanda Broadman. He is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of Covelo, California. Gabe can be reached at 206.300.7801 or firstname.lastname@example.org.