A Sweaty Love Letter from Phil Knight

In which our man Durst leaks the secret contents of a letter from Nike CEO Phil Knight, explaining his moral obligation to stop funding universities that won't use sweatshop labor.

| Thu May 11, 2000 2:00 AM EDT

Dear University and/or College Colleagues and Partners:

Hello friends.

I'm sure you're aware of the recent scurrilous movement to usurp the dominion and authority of the Fair Labor Association by the student-led rabble that has intimated violent action if we refuse to subvert our principles and, thereby, the integrity and security of our employees. Which, we assure you, will never happen.

It is impossible to express the terrible grief we have experienced in the face of these thinly veiled threats by the so-called Worker Rights Consortium, which apparently wants to turn back the clock to the purges of Stalin, all for the supposed sake of our workers, who in fact kiss the ground we walk on.

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If it weren't for us, who knows if these people would even have jobs. They're not only happy working 16 hour days -- our studies show they prefer it. As everybody knows, Asians take pride in hard labor. To suggest otherwise is racist and ignorant and to impugn their culture, which is different from ours. And while the salaries we pay may not seem like much to us, in their country, they are quite literally fortunes. These people live like kings.

The Fair Labor Association is just that -- an association devoted to fair labor. Why else the name? The Worker Rights Consortium, on the other hand, is nothing but a pawn of the US organized labor movement, with conspicuous ties to Castro, and merely attempting to further its socialist agenda by its outrageous demands that our industry submit to its commando-style raids on offshore factories. "How can a reasonable dialogue be held with people committed to the overthrow of democracy as we know it?" you might ask, and you'd be right.

So let us take this moment to reiterate how much we cherish our relationship, and also how much we would hate like hell to be forced to stop all subsidies and incentives augmenting your campus's all-important athletic programs. We regret the circumstances that forced us to sever ties with the Universities of Michigan and Oregon, and reiterate our position that these are just coincidences having nothing to do with those institutions' embracement of the WRC Communist philosophy. Absolutely nothing.

So here's a few suggestions we would like to see implemented that would go a long way toward maintaining our current mutually advantageous relationship:

  • Assurances that the words "sweat" and "shop" will never appear in the same sentence of any official university correspondence. This includes thesis papers.

  • An investigation into the financial aid status of all Worker Rights Consortium ringleaders and followers. Any discrepancy will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  • We would never ask you to deny campus entrance to anybody wearing Reebok, Converse, Adidas, or New Balance shoes. That would be silly and tantamount to prosecution under federal trade restriction legislation. Instead, we suggest a discount of five to 10 percent at all university stores to students wearing Nike running shoes.

We trust our relationship will remain, as Rod Stewart sings, "Forever Young," and the need will never arise for an embarrassment of the sort that might include half-time locker-room shoe removal during a nationally televised broadcast. Or worse.

Happy running.

Your friend and treasured associate,

Phil Knight
President and CEO of Nike