Nike and its employees have donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates, according to a new report that comes as Democrats embrace the company for its Colin Kaepernick endorsement.
Despite catching heat from conservatives after the company named the controversial free-agent NFL quarterback the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that Nike employees, its political action committee, and its founder have donated millions to Republicans.
According to the report, Nike's PAC has given $424,000 to Republicans compared to $122,000 to Democrats. Aside from 2016, the company donated more to Republicans than Democrats in every election cycle since 2010.
Nearly half of that money came from co-founder Phil Knight and his family. The family also donated $1.5 million to Republican Knute Buehler's gubernatorial campaign against Democrat Kate Brown. The donation was the largest contribution to any Oregon candidate since the state began electronically tracking donations in 2006. Knight no longer runs the company but remains its largest shareholder. The Nike World Headquarters are based in Beaverton, Oregon.
“Nike gave 78 percent of political contributions to Republicans this cycle,” OpenSecrets reported. “With a couple notable exceptions like the 2008 and 2016 election cycles, Nike has a track record of giving much more to Republicans than Democrats in the past decade. During the 2010, 2012 and 2014 election cycles, Nike gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans, with 76 percent, 69 percent and 59 percent of their contributions going to the GOP in each of those cycles respectively. Nearly half of Nike’s political spending has come from individual contributions made by co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny.”
OpenSecrets also notes that the company's competitors have not been so politically active. Though New Balance has donated $1.2 million to Republicans, Adidas and Under Armour have been more frugal. Adidas employees gave $139,000 to political candidates since 2006, with 71 percent going to Democrats. Under Armour employees have given $166,000 to candidates over the last decade, with 84 percent going to Democrats.
The revelation comes as progressives rally around Nike for its backing of Kaepernick, who has been shut out of the NFL after becoming the first player to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police abuses.
Despite some outrage and Trump fans burning their shoes, Nike's stock hit an all-time high after the announcement, adding $6 billion in market value, according to CBS News. The company's stock is up 36 percent this year.
After the announcement, investors at the company's annual general meeting called for more transparency from the company related to its political spending on contributions, lobbying, and nonprofits, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Companies cannot count on their political spending remaining secret,” Center for Political Accountability President Bruce Freed told The Wall Street Journal. “There’s the risk of inadvertent disclosure. If the spending is seen as conflicting with company values and positions, companies risk a sharp public backlash.”
Nike recommended that its shareholders vote against the political spending transparency.
The call comes as companies come under fire for supporting Republican causes in the age of Trump.
The burger chain In-N-Out was hit with a boycott threat after it was revealed the company donated $25,000 to the California Republican Party in August.
Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who owns the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and NBA's Portland Trailblazers, similarly drew outrage when it was revealed he donated $100,000 to a political action committee whose aim is to keep Republicans in control of the US House of Representatives.
In-N-Out, Allen, and Nike all defended themselves by pointing out that they have donated to both parties in the past, despite their contributions appearing to favor the GOP.
Still, Nike's ad campaign has been a hit and its successes have been touted by The Resistance all over social media. Its slogan, “Believe in Something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” appears to be one of the more politically divisive statements a company could make in the age of Trump. But as Joshua Hunt correctly points out in his piece at The Atlantic, “One of capitalism’s most enduring myths is the idea that there are good corporations and bad corporations. The truth is far more simple: Colin Kaepernick has a dream, and selling dreams is Nike’s business.”