Nike, as well as several other American mega-corporations, including Coca-Cola and Apple, lobbied to weaken a bill aimed at preventing American companies from importing products made in Chinese labor camps, including camps home to as many as one million Uyghurs, a persecuted ethnically Muslim minority.
“Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple all sought to weaken proposed legislation aimed at barring US companies from relying on the forced labor of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region, Business Insider reports. The bill would “ban US companies from importing a wide range of goods made in Xinjiang, where China has been accused of mass human rights violations unless companies can prove that the goods weren’t made using forced labor.”
The New York Times first reported on corporate lobbying efforts aimed at watering down the bill. Business Insider notes that of the named companies only Apple pushed back on the report. Coca-Cola said that it already prohibits forced labor in its supply chain.
Nike’s spokesperson, however, denied only that they lobbied against the bill. Instead, BI reports that Nike claims it simply had “constructive discussions” with key staffers about the bill.
It is expected to pass despite Nike’s efforts — it sailed easily through the House and will likely be presented in the Senate as soon as the next session begins — but that doesn’t change that the mega-corporation, well known for promoting social justice causes stateside, appears to have taken a position against social justice on the issue of Chinese forced labor.
Just last year, Nike hired former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to headline an advertising campaign. Kaepernick appeared in spots over the slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
As the Washington Times pointed out in 2019, Nike drew the line at the pro-democracy, anti-China protests in Hong Kong.
“After positioning itself as an unabashed champion of Mr. Kaepernick‘s free-speech rights, Nike has been conspicuously silent on the uproar roiling the NBA, saying nothing about China‘s decision to punish the Houston Rockets after general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the protesters,” the Examiner reported. “In fact, Nike stores in China quietly pulled their Houston Rockets merchandise off the shelves last week, according to Reuters, an indication that the sports apparel giant has already made the decision to protect its bottom line rather than the consistency of its ‘speak truth to power’ message.”
Kaepernick, for his part, has also been silent on China’s misdeeds, per the Washington Examiner.
In March of 2020, Nike was named in a report from the Congressional-Executive Commission, which claimed that “Nike and Coca-Cola, as well as major brands such as Adidas, Campbell Soup, Costco, H&M, Kraft Heinz, Patagonia, and Tommy Hilfiger, were suspected of relying on forced Chinese labor.”
Nike responded to that report by saying that it “‘does not source products’ from Xinjiang and that it ‘confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.’ Nike also told The [New York] Times that a factory in Qingdao that makes its shoes stopped using Uighur labor in 2019.” A later report suggested that some Uyghurs were still working there.