Nike's Transparent Trans-Pacific Pathos

Astute fans have been aware for years now. Sports is no longer a politics-free zone. Once upon a time sport remained that last bastion of agenda-free entertainment. After all, how could a guy tasked with shooting a basketball or throwing a football advance a political agenda?

Even if they did find a way, why would professional athletes’ views on such issues hold any water?

Well, there was a time when the athlete’s opinion mattered. Particularly, the black athlete’s opinion. There was a time when the likes of Bill Russell advocated for true equality, for meritocracy in lieu of race-based thinking.

That time was the 1960s.

In fact, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 serves as tangible, lasting and legally binding proof that the outspoken black athletes of the era helped to leave a lasting positive legacy for their people.

This political activism threatened their personal security and diminished their earning power, but resulted in something undeniably positive, legally ending segregation as well as other forms of racial, religious, and sex-based discrimination.

This was the rare instance when sport and political and social activism were necessary.

Flash-forward to 2017. Affirmative action has been in place since JFK’s 1961 Executive Order. 52 years have passed since the adoption of the Civil Rights Act. A black man was elected President of the United States- if you hadn’t heard.

Yet LeBron James continues to comport himself as if he is a modern-day Jim Brown. There are many problems with James’ insistence on repeatedly injecting himself into politics.

Chief among them?

He ain’t Jim Brown, and the issues of 2017 aren’t the issues of the 1960s, despite the rhetoric Black Lives Matter’s belligerent mouthpieces would have you believe.

Today, an athlete does not risk their livelihood if they speak out on an issue, although they often fundamentally misconstrue the complexities at hand.

Quite the contrary. They are praised as brave pioneers treading uncharted waters, with otherwise irrelevant benchwarmers like the NBA’s Jason Collins extending their relevance and earning power for years by coming out of the closet in a very public fashion.

So, it is understandable that athletes are more willing- eager even- than ever to come out as an “advocate” for the liberal agenda of the day.

Now Nike, a company that stands to lose from Donald Trump’s vow to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is using this rash of acti-letes to further spread opposition to President Trump’s America first approach.

Their new commercial called ‘Equality’ is imbued with all the platitudes that ramp up strife and division while presenting no actual attainable goal.

On its face, the commercial laments the urban plight and hints at the perceived injustices and bigotry that are often blamed for the state of inner-city America.

In reality, Nike is using its stable of minority athletes to advance the idea that Trump is against all minorities. The reason? This xenophobic (I bet you haven’t heard that one before) image of our President lends itself to the narrative that he is scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership based on some sort of bigotry toward Asia and its people.

Never mind that the ad itself has seemingly little to do with trans-Pacific trade policy. That would be far too overt. Plus, Twitter doesn’t get fired up about much outside of the racial division industry.

It is the numbers, specifically Nike’s financial model, that tell the true story of the ‘Equality’ ad.

To start, Nike has not made a shoe in America since 1984. Their reliance upon cheap Asian labor cannot be overstated, and it is important to note that not all Asian countries are equal when it comes to the cost of labor.

Due to emigration rates that are roughly double immigration rates, some Asian countries are facing shrinking labor forces, with a resulting increase in the price of labor in such countries. Oxford Economics produced a report that calculated China’s labor costs as only 4% cheaper than America’s, with productivity factored in. China is the primary example of this, and Nike has taken note.

Though President Trump is often critical of the TPP as a deal that will further increase China’s economic standing, they are not technically part of the deal.

The proposed deal includes the Asian countries of Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei and is a wide-ranging deal that includes not only a significant reduction in tariffs, but also agreements pertaining to intellectual property, human rights and environmental obligations, pharmaceutical standards, and other issues.

Proponents of the deal argue that it will keep American companies operating in the region competitive, as the EU and China are pursuing deals that would achieve similar ends to this one. This is difficult to refute, but Trump has stated all along that his aim was to get the American laborer back to work. What many of his supporters may not have fully embraced is the increased cost that comes with American labor regulations.

Nike is fully aware of the wage gap between workers in America and Vietnam, where a wage of 60 cents an hour is the norm. As the posterchild for companies built on the backs of sweatshops, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was slated to mitigate the rising cost of Chinese labor by allowing Nike to move even more of its factories to Vietnam, with the reduced tariffs making the decision an easy one.

It was no coincidence that President Obama gave a speech espousing the mutual benefit of TPP at Nike Headquarters in May of 2015.

Nike vowed to bring 10,000 new jobs to the United States should TPP be approved. This is a drop in the bucket when compared to their estimated 990,000 global employees. It has been pointed out that Nike is more of a global company than a truly American one, at least in terms of who they employ.

Specifically, one could argue that they are almost a Vietnamese company. As of October 2015, 43% of their footwear was manufactured in Vietnam. There’s only one thing that comes to mind when considering this statistic: labor in Vietnam must be dirt cheap.

But like most agreements entered under Obama, the TPP deal was supposed to fundamentally change the culture of appalling working conditions for unlivable wages in Asia, just ask Barry:

“So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards.  It would have to set a minimum wage. It would have to pass safe workplace laws to protect its workers. It would even have to protect workers' freedom to form unions -- for the very first time.  That would make a difference.  That helps to level the playing field -- (applause) -- and it would be good for the workers in Vietnam, even as it helps make sure that they're not undercutting competition here in the United States.”

Right, because America is capable of enforcing factory standards and wage minimums in freaking Vietnam.

After all, higher wages and work safety standards are directly opposed to Nike’s profit margin, which is the primary reason they were such staunch advocates for TPP in the first place.

It is the same reason they are producing expensive advertisements in the name of “Equality.”

Not because they believe in, you know, actual equality. If that were the case, they would have made real efforts to curb their inhumane reliance upon cheap labor long ago.

Nike is shuddering at the thought of moving factories to America, and it is completely understandable. The shoe industry is competitive, even for its biggest fish.

We would appreciate it, however, if Nike cut all the equality crap and told us the real reason they are suddenly social activists: they want their cheap labor to be even cheaper, and they want the Trans-Pacific Partnership passed.

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