An Open Letter to Nike and Adidas by John E. Harmon Sr., African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ)
When Nike and Adidas withdraw endorsements of Black celebrities, there are unintended consequences.”
— John E. Harmon Sr., AACCNJ
Let me clarify that neither the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) nor I condone antisemitism or any other form of hateful speech directed at, or harmful acts inflicted upon, an individual or groups of individuals. We never have. We never will. But months have passed since multibillion-dollar enterprises like Nike, and Adidas severed their financial obligations to Kyrie Irving and Ye, respectively. Yet, we still wait for those corporations to fill the economic void their canceled endorsements have created in marginalized communities.
We know many Black athletes and entertainers are altruistic and use their wealth to help address societal ills through generous monetary donations. ESPN SportsCenter reported on Twitter on January 29, 2021, that in 2020, Irving donated $323,000 to Feeding America; collaborated with City Harvest to distribute 250,000 meals to New Yorkers; partnered with Nike to donate 17 pallets of food and masks to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; committed $1.5 million to help pay the salaries of WNBA players who opted out of the 2020 season; paid off the college tuitions of nine students at Lincoln University, a Historically Black College or University; and, according to former NBA player Stephen Jackson, purchased a house for the family of George Floyd.
Likewise, CNN reported Ye donated $2 million to support the families of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Ye also has contributed to causes that endeavor to lower high school drop-out rates and end food insecurity and homelessness in the United States.
“However, when Nike and Adidas withdraw endorsements of Black celebrities, there are unintended consequences”, said John E. Harmon Sr., AACCNJ. What sustains philanthropy? How does funding continue to flow to underserved communities? Are there other alternatives aside from a complete cessation of business dealings?
As I reflect on the statements issued by so many corporations in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s murder, I am reminded of the words stated in the poignant video Nike posted on Twitter four days after Floyd’s death, prefaced with #UntilWeAllWin:
Nike. “For once, Don’t Do It. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent. Don’t think you can’t be a part of the change. Let’s all be part of the change.” Twitter, May 29, 2020, https://twitter.com/nike/status/1266502116463370241
The next day, in a show of solidarity, Adidas retweeted Nike’s video, stating:
Adidas. “Together is how we move forward. Together is how we make change.” Twitter, May 30, 2020, https://twitter.com/adidas/status/1266594990559379457?lang=en
When Nike and Adidas withdraw endorsements of Black celebrities, there are unintended consequences.” — John E. Harmon Sr., AACCNJ
“For more than 15 years, the AACCNJ has been dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining New Jersey’s African-American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activities. We help Black people create generational wealth by being a critical source of information, inspiration, knowledge, resources, and advocacy. Every day, we use our platform to fight the systemic racism that bars African Americans in New Jersey from increasing their average net worth of $5,900 to the $315,000 net worth garnered by their white counterparts.” – John E. Harmon Sr., AACCNJ
So, to Nike and Adidas, we say, We speak your language.
– For once, we won’t let you do it. When you withdraw resources directly or indirectly from underserved communities, we demand you replenish those resources commensurately.
– We won’t let you pretend there is no problem in America between the haves and the have-nots. So, when you withdraw resources directly or indirectly from underserved communities, we demand you replenish those resources commensurately to help level the playing field.
– We won’t let you turn your backs on institutional racism. African Americans are your most loyal customers and should be treated and respected as such. So, when you withdraw resources directly or indirectly from Black communities, we demand you replenish them commensurately to show us you appreciate our patronage.
– We won’t accept innocent lives being taken from us because of education, health, and wealth inequities. So, when you withdraw resources directly or indirectly from our communities, we demand you replenish them commensurately to boost the downtrodden.
– We won’t allow you to make any more excuses. Yes, antisemitism is deplorable. But so is institutional racism. Do not inadvertently perpetuate a process that adversely impacts a group that continually faces oppression. So, when you withdraw resources directly or indirectly from underserved communities, we demand you replenish them commensurately to foster proactive, prosperous solutions, rather than reactive and potentially regressive responses.
– We won’t let you forget that your decision to withdraw resources directly or indirectly from underserved communities not only affects the individuals who reside in those communities but also affects you and your bottom line.
– We won’t sit back and be silent. Our network is strong and wide.
– We know we can be a part of the change with viable solutions that offer a win-win for all.
– Let’s all be part of the change – corporations, consumers, and community- and faith-based organizations alike.
– Together is how we move forward. Let’s talk about it.
– Together is how we make a change. Let’s listen to one another.
To mitigate the adverse economic impact termination of Irving and West’s contracts created in underserved communities, the AACCNJ extends an open invitation to Nike, Adidas, and others to discuss how to redistribute the resources budgeted under those agreements. It is a serious and imperative gesture because statements of diversity, equity, and inclusion are ineffectual #UntilWeAllWin. Let’s move away from rhetoric by taking a historic step toward real change. Will you answer our open letter? We deserve real answers and action, and we deserve them now.