Nike Ducks Civil Rights Question

“Today, Nike Showed Zero Respect for Its Shareholders, Zero Respect for the Rule of Law and Zero Integrity.”
Nike Signed Amicus Brief Defending Obama DOJ’s Position that Federal Law Requires Mixing the Biological Sexes in Public School Locker Rooms and Other Public Facilities in Litigation over North Carolina’s HB2
Obama’s DOJ Claims the Executive Branch Can Re-Write the Civil Rights Act to Allow People to Self-Determine Their Sex
National Center for Public Policy Research Asks Nation’s Largest Sports Apparel Brand To Explain How the 1964 Civil Rights Act Can Be Re-Written Without the Involvement of Congress
Despite Being Given the Question in Advance of Today’s Meeting, Nike Executives Refused to Answer the Question
Shareholder National Center for Public Policy Research Also Asked if the Sports Apparel Giant Will Put its Money Where its Mouth is and Withdraw from the Tar Heel State Like the NBA and NCAA; Nike Ducked that Question Also

Beaverton, OR / Washington, D.C. – At today’s annual meeting of Nike shareholders in Beaverton, Oregon, National Center for Public Policy Research General Counsel and Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. asked the sports apparel company if Nike believes the president of the United States has the power to re-write the 1964 Civil Rights Act without the involvement of Congress.

Nike, breaking from corporate best practices, did not accept direct questions. The company required Danhof to surrender the question in advance. Then, during the meeting, Nike CEO Mark Parker took the question, changed it radically, and asked one of his subordinates, chief sustainability officer Hannah Jones, to answer it for him.

Like a state-run media outfit, Nike rephrased the question to not only place the company in a favorable light, but to eliminate its entire purpose.

Here is the full text of the National Center’s question as provided to Nike today:

Despite the media headlines, HB2 is about much more than bathrooms; it is about the fundamental way the federal government operates. Nike’s support for the Justice Department means one of three things:

  • Nike’s management believes that Congress, when it voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1972 Education Act Amendments, intended “sex” to be a mental state or belief about one’s sex not related to biology.
  • Nike’s management believes that Congress, when referring to sex in 1964 and 1972, meant the term to refer to biological males and females, and that the definition of “sex” in federal law has simply changed over the years. Yet, if the definition of “sex” has changed, how did it change in federal law without Congress voting to change it and no federal court ruling redefining it?
  • Or, finally, Nike believes that the executive branch can change the core meaning of federal laws all by itself.

My first question is: which of these does Nike believe?

Secondly, if Nike is so opposed to HB2, would you be willing to put your money where your mouth is and pull your business out of the state? Like the NBA pulled its All-Star game from Charlotte and the NCAA pulled numerous championship events from North Carolina sites, Nike could end its affiliation with Tar Heel State schools such as Duke, the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest and stop selling all related apparel. Would you be willing to do that?

Instead of asking – or answering – that question, CEO Parker simply asked Jones what Nike’s position is on discrimination and how that relates to its involvement with HB2 and North Carolina.

In response, Jones blankly stated that Nike doesn’t support discrimination and that’s why it was proud to partner with the Human Rights Campaign’s legal brief in support of the Justice Department.

The behavior of Nike’s executives today would have been a joke, except it wasn’t funny,” said Danhof. “We posed a very serious question about why a corporation would support the Obama Administration’s effort to rewrite federal law in a way that could establish a very dangerous legal precedent, but the company clearly does not take these issues seriously. If it did, one of its executives would have had the courage to answer our question, but none did. Furthermore, the company’s restated question was an effort to claim that the National Center supports discrimination, while the company is some sort of defender of the downtrodden and discriminated. Now, that’s a joke.”

The conduct at Nike’s meeting should also be of great concern to all the company’s investors. Shareholders have one opportunity a year to voice concerns and ask questions of key company executives. To neuter that process by rewriting questions and giving prepared answers is extremely disrespectful to those who invest their money with a publicly-traded company,” said Danhof. “Today, Nike showed zero respect for its shareholders, zero respect for the rule of law and zero integrity.”

“It’s easy to sit on the sidelines, but if Parker and Nike’s leadership are really so opposed to North Carolina’s public accommodation law, the company should sever all financial ties with the Tar Heel State, including its lucrative contracts with major universities such as Duke and the University of North Carolina,” added Danhof.

“I’m not surprised that Nike has jumped on this liberal bandwagon,” said Danhof. “The company, famous for its swoosh, has recently taken on many far-left social causes. For example, last year Nike CEO Mark Parker spoke out against state-level religious freedom laws. Nike also funds America’s largest abortion mill, Planned Parenthood. It appears that Nike has become a go-to corporation for liberal politicians and policy groups when they need support for leftist causes. That should alarm all Nike investors. We are a nation that is deeply divided politically. To pick one side over the other is to snub tens of millions of potential consumers.”

“Perhaps Nike’s executives remain blind to what the real legal issues are in the HB2 litigation. The Obama Administration’s Justice Department is pulling a classic bait and switch. The DOJ is using the siren song of discrimination over the use of public restrooms in North Carolina to try to wrest power away from Congress. What the DOJ is really seeking is executive authority to rewrite federal law. Viewed through the correct legal lens, companies such as Nike aren’t combating discrimination, they are supporting the Obama Administration’s goal of expanding executive branch power,” said Danhof.

Nike signed an amicus brief in the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against North Carolina claiming that North Carolina’s HB2 law, which assigns restrooms, showers and locker rooms in public facilities based on biological sex, is illegal “sex discrimination,” citing the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act was written to ban discrimination based on race, color, religion, biological sex or national origin. It contained no provision establishing an individual’s legal right to claim a sex at odds with biology.

Nike’s position is that the Obama Administration can re-define the terms within the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If Nike’s position is upheld, a future President Trump or Clinton, and his or her successors, would have the legal precedent to also re-write any of the Act’s provisions, including those dealing with race and religion.

The National Center also asked if Nike is willing to “put its money where its mouth is” and withdraw business from North Carolina, as other sports, entertainment and corporate interests have done to protest HB2.

The DOJ is arguing that under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1972 Education Act Amendments and the 2013 Violence Against Women Act, assigning a person a sex based on their physiology constitutes illegal sex discrimination.

The National Center for Public Policy Research believes Congressional approval is necessary if the federal government is to extend the Civil Rights Act to cover individuals who identify as transgender, but choose not to actually change their gender medically or legally. Otherwise, it says, any part of the Civil Rights Act could be redefined at the whim of any president, for any reason.

In July, the National Center issued a press release criticizing the 68 companies, including Nike, that are working with the Obama Administration to give the executive branch more power in rewriting federal laws. In that release, Danhof noted:

Besides offending the sensibilities of millions of Americans and North Carolinians who don’t wish to have grown men and young girls in states of undress in the same public facility, the Justice Department’s lawsuit seeks to fundamentally alter the rule of law. Obama’s Justice Department has long sought to include self-identified transgender individuals as a protected class under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972. Since the DOJ doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to rewrite laws, it is trying to seek the same result by establishing precedent with this court case. Such a result would irreparably damage America’s unique separation of powers and open the floodgates for increased executive branch control over state and local matters.

If the government is going to extend the Civil Rights Act to cover individuals who merely identify as transgender – but choose not to actually change their gender medically or legally – then that’s up to the U.S. Congress. Members of Congress are elected and accountable to the American people. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her lackeys at the Department of Justice are not. However, publicly-held companies are accountable to their investors and customers. Corporations that want to undermine the American people need to hear from these stakeholders. Every time a corporation even hints at taking a perceived conservative action or position, the liberal activist machine kicks into high gear and attacks that corporation. Conservative and free enterprise-minded folks need to start using the same tactics to go after companies that limit freedom.

And last month, Danhof questioned the executives of Red Hat – another signatory to the amicus brief – regarding the software company’s support for the DOJ’s overreach.

For more information on that meeting, see here and here.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. Today’s Nike meeting marks its 20th shareholder meeting of 2016.

Just this year, the Free Enterprise Project has been featured in the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Fox News’s “Cavuto,” the Drudge Report, the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the Quad City Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune among many others.

The Free Enterprise Project is also prominently featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kim Strassel’s new book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a Nike shareholder.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.