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Students Want UNC to Break Contract With Nike

Posted October 31, 1997

— A group of UNC students claims the company famous for the swoosh is also infamous for forcing its plant employees to work in sweatshop-like conditions.

Now, they want UNC to break its $7.1 million athletics contract with Nike. The two sides met today in Chapel Hill.

The meeting lasted over an hour and both sides said it went well. But there is no talk about breaking any contracts at this point. Student activists admit Nike is a leader in sports marketing, they just want to make sure it is a leader in human rights.

The Nike Awareness Campaign is made up of students that are pretty shy in front of the cameras, but not too shy to take its complaints right to the top of UNC athletics: former basketball coach Dean Smith and Athletic Director Dick Baddour.

The group doesn't like UNC's $7.1 million deal with Nike that pays the Tar Heels to use Nike equipment exclusively in its 28 sports programs. The student activists said Nike underpays and mistreats workers in Southeast Asia and claimed UNC should think twice about its association. Smith appeared to be thinking about it as well.

Reaction was mixed on campus on what to do about Nike, its labor practices and the $7.1 million deal. Even if they're in the minority, the students seemed to be on the same page with some pretty major players.

A representative at Nike headquarters said the students were being unfair. He said they were applying American standards to third world countries. The next move from the Nike Awareness Campaign is to hold a speak-out on Nov. 7 at UNC.

The students also asked members of the football team to wear a black 'x' on their jerseys when they host Florida State on Nov. 8. There has been no official response from the team yet.

Nike has already cut ties with four Indonesian plants it deemed as "sweat shops." Nike Chairman Phil Knight made the announcement last month after visiting several of its Asian plants. Other factories in Korea and Vietnam made the cut. In fact, a study by Dartmouth College found Nike workers had higher than average annual incomes compared to other factory workers in Asia.


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