The women Nike should promote over Tiger and Ben Roethlisberger
I’m glad someone called out Nike on its insulting decision to stand by Tiger Woods and Ben Roethlisberger after their behavior toward women – Roethlisberger, especially, stands accused of a string of criminal behavior. I’m also glad that the person to do it was perhaps my favorite major columnist, the New York Times’ Tim Egan, who brings the voice of my native Pacific Northwest (also the home of Nike) to the New York-centric paper.
Of Roethlisberger, Egan writes:
If this guy didn’t have a pair of Super Bowl Rings and a $102 million contract to entertain us on Sundays, most people would see him for what he is: a thug with a predatory sense of entitlement.
And of Nike, Egan is just as sharp, noting that it dropped Michael Vick, who was cruel to dogs, but
cruelty to women is O.K. I don’t know how else to read the company’s inconsistent stand. Here is a guy who treats women like garbage, yet a company that boasts of having humane corporate values uses him as their front man. Ditto Tiger Woods. Same with Kobe Bryant after a rape allegation, a case that was later dropped.
All of this is especially hard for me to swallow, since my family hails from Eugene, Oregon, where Nike began back in the 1960s, with University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman making shoes for his own athletes using a waffle iron and some elbow grease. It’s also hard for me because I’ve spent my life pounding pavement and splashing through rainy Oregon running trails, taking joy, solace, and comfort in the sport that gave Nike its roots.
Because of all this, I know Nike has a stable of women athletes that it helps train and provide a living for. I use the Nike+ iPod device when I run, where a chip in my iPod communicates with a chip in my shoe to track my distance, pace, calories burned, etc. Whenever I finish a successful workout, the voice of a famous Nike athlete – sometimes Lance Armstrong, sometimes Tiger – will come on to give a congratulatory message. I’m always doubly excited when it’s Joan Benoit Samuelson, the pioneer women’s marathoner and world-class runner. But try finding her in a Nike commercial.
Interestingly, Nike put out a commercial promoting its female athletes back in 2007, after the ugly comments made by Don Imus about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Then, it was all too happy to note how kick-ass its female athletes, like Serena Williams, Picabo Street and Gabby Reece, can be. But when it’s the company’s own sponsored male athletes who are insulting women through their behavior, Nike can’t be bothered to back up its ladies.
Personally, I’d like to see Nike make a household name out of Kara Goucher, the Olympic marathoner who lives and trains in Nike’s backyard and who is coached by running legend Alberto Salazar. But any of its rockstar female athletes – Jessica Mendoza, Kristen Kjelmman, Sanya Richards – deserve a moment in the spotlight, especially if it means fewer bizarro Tiger Woods commercials.