Opinion: Who does the Nike boycott actually hurt?

By: Arden Lunay

Nike has recently released a controversial campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback who has been under fire after kneeling during the National Anthem, and many are calling for a boycott of their products. They argue that he is a symbol of disrespect towards American soldiers despite statements from Kaepernick claiming that he is protesting police brutality against minorities. These boycotts are continually circulating Twitter, but what are the actual impacts that Nike is facing because of these acts of protest?

Unfortunately for the protesters, boycotts are rarely successful. This is because while they can seem popular while popping up in social media feeds, they usually do not contain enough support to have an impact on multi billion dollar companies such as Nike. Even with the numbers behind the movements, the lack of long-term organization means that any effects fade quickly. For example, a 2003 boycott of French wines dropped sales 26%, but sales were back to the same trajectory as before the controversy within six months. Any attempt at hurting Nike’s sales has been unsuccessful, with sales up 31% since the ad’s release.

This could be a good thing. When sales drop for major companies, the ones who are impacted the most are the people at the bottom of the supply chain. Garment workers in countries like Bangladesh are the first to feel the effects of the loss of sales. Workers in the garment factories work 10-12 hours a day just to be paid about $63 USD a month. This is hardly enough to survive, so when the need for their labor decreases, they are left with no money for basic food and rent to stay alive.

If someone wants to attempt to change a company, like the removal of Kaepernick from Nike’s advertising campaign, the best thing for a consumer to do would be to reach out to the company through social media, contact pages, and bringing their concerns to news sources. Any attempt to undermine the sales of the company can undermine the sole source of income for millions of silenced garment workers in impoverished nations. If this boycott would have been successful, Kaepernick would not have been the one hurt. More than likely, it would be people who don’t even know who Kaepernick is.

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