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Nike stocks still tanking a year after Mulvaney partnership

New Jersey, USA, January 1, 2019: Nike store front in shopping mall. Nike is an American multinational corporation that design, manufacturing, marketing and sales athletic shoes and apparel.
New Jersey, USA, January 1, 2019: Nike store front in shopping mall. Nike is an American multinational corporation that design, manufacturing, marketing and sales athletic shoes and apparel. | iStock/helen89

A lot has happened since Dylan Mulvaney pranced around his yard in a Nike sports bra last April. Days after his face appeared on Bud Light cans — the controversy that launched a thousand boycotts — the sight of him doing jumping jacks in women’s workout gear was almost worst. And a stock chart that looks like a downhill ski slope proves it. Months after the country protested with a bonfire of bra burning, the only swoosh Nike hears now is the sound of profits gushing. 

While Bud Light hogged most of the spotlight with its historic collapse, the devastation of Nike’s trans advocacy is real. By August of last year, the brand of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods was experiencing what experts called “its biggest losing streak since 1980.” With catastrophic losses — upwards of $13 billion dollars in market value — consumer outrage was packing a serious punch.

Angry women led the charge, lashing out at the company as an insult to females everywhere. “The ad feels like a parody of what women are ... That Nike would do this feels like a kick in the teeth,” one posted. Others blasted the brand for making a “mockery out of women,” vowing never to buy another thing from a company that chose a man “over all the hardworking women who workout regularly in your activewear.” It’s “absolutely disgusting.” Most people just couldn’t understand the marketing logic. “Why doesn’t Nike pay a real women to promote a product that is solely for women?” they wanted to know.

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Almost a year later, the pressure hasn’t let up. Market analysts have been shocked by the company’s inability to rebound, a nosedive they wrongly assumed was temporary. According to Yahoo Finance, Nike’s stock is down 11.3% since the beginning of the year, and it’s trading “26.1% below its 52-week high.” And while experts are blaming everything from weak overseas demand to slowing sales and pricing challenges, their theories miss the most important reality: shoppers won’t put up with social extremism anymore. LGBT activism, the kind flaunted by Mulvaney and embraced by tone-deaf board rooms, continues to be the kiss of death to corporate profitability. 

A long line of woke CEOs can testify to that — including Anheuser-BuschTargetDisneyPlanet FitnessRipCurl, and Doritos (although the latter two took the bold step of apologizing and course-correcting). Nike, on the other hand, only dug in — a decision that forced them to lay off 1,600 people in February, with a second round of cuts expected in May.

Nike boss John Donahoe has called the company’s downturn “a painful reality and not one that I take lightly.” “We are currently not performing at our best, and I ultimately hold myself and my leadership team accountable,” he said, leaving out any mention of the poor decisions that put Nike in this position in the first place. 

Unfortunately, the company has a long and frustrating history of political activism. Millions of customers called it quits on Nike after their endorsement of anti-American quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who, along with disrespecting our national anthem, persuaded the company to shelve its patriotic shoes. They were the first sports retailer to fan the flames of racial tension during the George Floyd riots, voicing support for controversial groups like Black Lives Matter. They’ve fought against religious freedom in adoption billsgirls sports and privacy, even launched a special trans line of clothing called Be True.

Most egregiously, Nike was one of the few brands openly using slave labor to stitch their iconic shoes together. A 2020 expose from The Washington Post talked about the Uyghurs who were spared China's concentration camps only to hunch over tables sewing Nike’s logo on an endless line of shoes — up to seven million pairs a year. 

“Everyone knows they didn’t come here of their own free will,” a Chinese woman told reporter Anna Fifield at the time. “They were brought here ... because they didn’t have an option. The government sent them here.” It’s how the Chinese government is “exporting the punitive culture and ethos of Xinjiang’s ‘reeducation camps’ to factories across China,” one expert told the Post. 

Incredibly, when a bipartisan bill threatened to outlaw the use of slave labor for American companies, ending our country’s role in these human rights atrocities, Nike fought to kill it. Company spokesmen denied that, responding to The New York Times allegations that they were only in “constructive conversations” with lawmakers. But even today, three years after Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the Canadian government is investigating complaints that Nike is still using slave laborers in Xinjiang, which they consider a "crime against humanity."

Now, a year into their Dylan Mulvaney fiasco, the Oregon-based headquarters is reaping the whirlwind. Instead of taking their foot off the gas of an agenda Americans have so clearly rejected, Nike is stubbornly leaning into the radicalism that’s bankrupting other brands. At a time when almost 300 companies are backing off their LGBT advocacy, Nike scored a perfect 100% on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index this year (quite a feat considering HRC’s steep transgender benchmarks).

If Nike wants to enrage consumers at a time of record pushback, that’s their business. But better advice might come from their peers, who believe a smarter company slogan would be: Just don’t. 

Originally published at The Washington Stand. 

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer for The Washington Stand. In her role, she drafts commentary on topics such as life, consumer activism, media and entertainment, sexuality, education, religious freedom, and other issues that affect the institutions of marriage and family. Over the past 20 years at FRC, her op-eds have been featured in publications ranging from the Washington Times to The Christian Post. Suzanne is a graduate of Taylor University in Upland, Ind., with majors in both English Writing and Political Science.

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