Monday, April 23, 2007

Will Stringer take Nike's offer?

Am I the only person (well me and Carrie, anyway) who had a problem with Nike's "thank you, ignorance" ad that came out last week? (There was a print version in April 15's NYT in addition to the various websites it was posted on.)
The impetus for the ad, according to this source, was a self-questioning Nike wondering whether it was doing enough to promote women's sports. Apparently they are according to the Advertising Women of New York who will present Nike with an award called "10 Years of Getting It" this week. Unless "it" means lots of money from women buying their stuff (and in the interest of full disclosure, yes I do own Nike apparel), I am not sure what it is that Nike gets about women's sports. The article cites one of the most well-known campaigns: "if you let me play." That campaign, about which much critical scholarship has been done, does, I suppose, show that Nike gets that women's sports are always subordinate to men's and that women and girls have to ask permission to play.
[A good critique of "Nike empowerment" and how it is sold to women comes from Cheryl Cole and Amy Hribar in an article titled "Celebrity Feminism: Nike Style Post-Fordism, Transcendence, and Consumer Power" from a 1995 issue of Sociology of Sport Journal. If you want a copy email me at ]
But the interesting thing about Nike's latest campaign is how it may (ab)use the Imus-Rutgers situation. There is talk of a Nike-sponsored speaking tour featuring Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. Nike already sponsors the team but the speaking tour seems wrong to me somehow. I think Stringer on a speaking tour is a great idea and might help alleviate concerns that now that Imus is off the air (for how long remains to be seen, of course) the discussion about sexism and racism will die down. But Nike sponsoring such an event will read like what it is: exploitation. Nike will again come across as some magnanimous corporation and all its behind the scenes shenanigans (like using factories that pay its workers less than a dollar a day) will be buried.


Diane said...

It bothers me, too, but maybe for a slightly different reason. I am sick to death of the entire circus that is always produced around these things. The get-together with Imus was what I found really offensive; I think these things are done automatically now, just because the news media anticipates them. I am sorry that someone made a decision that the Rutgers women had to sit in a room with him and look at his face.

ken said...

The decision to sit down with Imus was presented as something the team wanted to do--I cannot imagine why. Whether they "wanted" to or not I think was superceded by the fact that a meeting would likely result in an expedited end to the focus on these particular women who, after all, need to take finals and do other student-related things. If they had not met with him I think the media would have pressed them relentlessly about whether they forgave Imus or what they thought about his firing, etc. I think they can point to the meeting and say--look, we're done with this--and have people respect that.