The students, united in protesting the Nike Corporation, accusing thecompany of using unfair labor practices. They want their universities toend athletic contracts with the sportswear giant.
They called the the Nike Speakout, and it began at noon Friday on theUNC campus near the Old Well. A debate of sorts was planned in additionto the rally, with UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker discussing the issue withsome of the leaders of the Nike Awareness campaign. The plan for the daywas to give anyone who wanted to speak out of the topic of sweatshop laboran opportunity to do so. Hooker told WRAL-TV5'sMarkRobertsthat outside support for athletic programs is very important.
The Nike Awareness organization began its work last week by meetingwith former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith. Everyone involved said thatmeeting provided a good exchange of ideas.
Jeff Jones, representing Nike Awareness, said the group is concernedabout the increasing role of corporations in college athletics.
The group has taken a stand against Nike's track record on labor inSoutheast Asia, but the school supports the flow of income fromcorporations. The money that comes in to the athletic department alsosupports programs such as women's field hockey, which makes very littlemoney on its own.
The organization has plans to continue its campaign against Nike at theUNC vs. FSU football game Saturday night.
FSU students have a similar organization on their campus. UNC studentssaid Friday that there is a lot of cohesiveness between the groups.
For it's part, Nike says it stands behind its written policy regardinglabor practices. According to the NIKE code of conduct, the companycondemns and prohibits child labor, requires workers be paid a fairwage, restricts the amount of hours a person is required to work, andprohibits mistreatment or discrimination of workers in any form.