The problem with coming out as a gay (or lesbian or TG for that matter) athlete is the fear that one can lose sponsors and most importantly one’s credibility as an athlete for simply saying the words, “I’m gay”. The misconceptions and stigmas that exist around gay/lesbian athletes are enough to ruin careers; lesbians are ridiculed as “men in women’s sport”, and gay men are thought to be too “fairy like” to be a part of professional sports. This problem is even graver in the US when you consider how rampant homophobia is in the African- American and Hispanic community, and how predominant these communities are in American Sports.
In the last few months the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) and the NBA (National Basketball Association) have been in the news for athletes coming out: Brittney Griner from the WNBA and Jason Collins, center for the Washington Wizards, from the NBA. Nike was swift to sign on both athletes.
Nike has been eager to sign on openly gay athletes for some time, and has unofficially said that, ‘they want any gay athletes that are considering coming out to come on board with the brand.” Additionally, Nike held its first LGBT Sport Summit last year where they discussed ways in which they could help end homophobia and trans phobia.
While there is no doubt that Nike’s no-holds-barred type support for LGBT athletes and the community at large is to be applauded, we cannot ignore the fact that this is also a capitalist move by Nike in order to win over the market share of the LGBT community and to thus boost its sales.
While there is nothing wrong with Nike wanting to increase sales, it is wrong for us to openly support Nike in their endeavor. Just because they have stood up for one community, doesn’t make them the most righteous company. Have we forgotten how in the early 1990’s Nike was found to be using child labor and sweat shops? Despite issuing an apology and a statement in 2001 where they claimed they would work towards ending child labor, they were once again found violating their own promises is 2011. A story broke about a Nike sweat shop in Indonesia where its workers were verbally and mentally abused, and forced to work for a meager 50 cents (Rupees 25-30) a day. Is it actually fair to praise Nike’s efforts when they are very clearly discriminating against other groups or workers?
While I absolutely distrust that this move by Nike is solely out of support and not at all capitalistic, I cannot deny the fact that Nike (as opposed to millions of other companies), has made its efforts for equality. In the ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ page, they have a clause specifically for the LGBT Community.
Nike’s practices may not all be legal and ethical, and they certainly should not be forgiven for that. However, for being the most forward thinking of all the sports giants, they deserve a little appreciation from us.
 Huffington Post: Nike’s Jason Collins Sponsorship Is Exactly What Nike Wanted
 Common Dreams: Nike Admits to Mistakes Over Child Labor
 Hufffington Post: Nike Faces New Worker Abuse Claims In Indonesia