Nike CEO Phil Knight announced Monday that he will halt all donations tothe University, clearing up recent rumors with his statement: “For mepersonally, there will be no further donations of any kind to theUniversity of Oregon.”
In a statement released by Nike late Monday, Knight called the University’srecent decision to join the Worker Rights Consortium shocking.
“With this move the University inserted itself into the new global economywhere I make my living – and inserted itself on the wrong side, fumbling ateachable moment,” Knight said.
The statement confirmed campus fears that Knight’s anticipated $30 millionpledge to the Autzen Stadium expansion project will be rescinded.
Dave Williford, assistant director of media services for Universityathletics, said because of the confirmation of Knight’s withdrawal,athletic separtment officials and administrators will meet within the nextfew days to discuss possible changes to the expansion project.
Knight, a University alumnus who noted in his statement that he haspersonally donated $50 million to athletic and academic programs in theyears since his 1959 graduation, said, “Nike has a lot of pride and hasbeen my life. It is the source of any dollars I am able to give. To acceptthe University of Oregon’s endorsement of the WRC would be to place mycompany, our employees, our university-related manufacturers and theiremployees in unknown hands and under undefined monitoring that has noprotocols, no credibility, no role for the companies whose businesses arebeing monitored and no independence.”
Nike and Knight have endorsed the Fair Labor Association, a monitoringagency similar to the WRC with a mission to improve working conditions inits factories. The fundamental difference between the two is that the FLAhas six apparel industry representatives on its 14-member board ofdirectors while the WRC allows no industry participation in decision making.
The University’s apparel contract with Nike – the licensing agreement thatputs “Swoosh” logos on Duck uniforms – will not be affected by Knight’sannouncement. The contract expires in the spring of 2003.
“Nike will honor its contractual commitment,” Knight said.University President Dave Frohnmayer released a statement shortly afterKnight’s announcement.
“We are very disappointed to hear that he plans to curtail futurecontributions to the University of Oregon,” Frohnmayer said.
Early Monday, the University administration was trying to set up aface-to-face discussion between Frohnmayer and Knight to resolve the matterbetween the two principle players, whose relationship has beencharacterized as a friendship.
“I still hope to speak with him in person, and look forward to working withhim in the future,” Frohnmayer said.
Knight indicated that future relations with the University may be strainedat best.
“At this time, this is not a situation that can be resolved,” Knight said.”The bonds of trust, which allowed me to give at a high level, have beenshredded.”
Emerald reporter Mirjam Swanson contributed to this article.