Nike CEO Mark Parker: It's All About the Money

There's a face behind the faceless corporation running anti-American Kaepernick ads.

Lewis Morris · Jul. 8, 2019

Nike stepped into a steaming pile of controversy when it yanked its Betsy Ross-inspired shoes at the behest of resident pitchman Colin Kaepernick. First he wouldn’t stand for the national anthem, igniting a widespread kneeling protest among NFL players. Now he’s trying to make a bridge between America’s first flag and racism. Kaepernick even made one of the world’s biggest companies bend to his will in the process. But there’s a face behind that faceless corporation.

Kaepernick may have been a middling football player, but he is a big-league race hustler, maybe one of the best yet. Anyone capable of influencing the marketing and sales decisions of a Fortune 500 Company must be considered a powerful person. Kaepernick is only a spokesman, though. Can he make this kind of call? Find out who’s signing Kaepernick’s paychecks and you’ll get to the bottom of this latest controversy.

Enter Nike CEO Mark Parker. Parker has been with Nike since 1979, starting out as a footwear designer. He climbed up the corporate ladder with innovative designs and a savvy marketing mind, becoming CEO in 2006. Since then, Nike has been on a steady uphill climb, now worth about $32 billion.

Part of Parker’s success has been being involved in all facets of the company’s development — product design, opening new markets like China, and marketing. Parker is ultimately responsible for signing on Kaepernick as a pitchman for the brand when he was at the height of his race-baiting powers.

Kaepernick’s first Nike ad aired last fall and caused a great deal of controversy — deliberately, of course. And it didn’t hurt Nike’s bottom line. Quite the opposite, actually, as the campaign ultimately earned the company $6 billion. Sad to say, but leftist, anti-American rhetoric apparently sells. And Parker knows it.

When Kaepernick voiced his offense at the Betsy Ross shoe, it was most likely to keep his name in the news. The only commodity he has to sell is controversy, and Parker, being a clever businessman, has leveraged that. Upon hearing of Kaepernick’s disapproval of the new product, Parker could have parted ways with Kaepernick and let the Betsy Ross shoe hit the market. But by keeping Kaepernick on board, Parker keeps a lot of his fans in Nike’s corner. The CEO is betting that this latest controversy will be as lucrative as its last one. Nike’s recent positive fourth-quarter-earnings report supports Parker’s thinking.

It may be cynical to think that this latest Kaepernick controversy is really just a clever marketing ploy, but Parker is at heart a businessman. Whatever his personal politics, Nike as a company often contributes more money to Republicans than Democrats, its recent courting of Kaepernick notwithstanding. This suggests that Kaepernick is the flavor of the month at Nike. The moment he no longer makes money for the company, he’ll be back on the bench.

For right now, Nike is content to make itself known as the brand that embraces anti-Americanism and perpetuating a false narrative to enrich itself and race hustlers like Colin Kaepernick. That may change when a new idea comes its way. In the meantime, shop accordingly.

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