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A Deeper Look at NIKE, Inc.’s Commitment to the Black Community

When something’s truly important, you don’t just say it is — you show it is.

That show-up ethos is what propelled a $140-million commitment to the Black community last June, through investments by NIKE, Inc. and Jordan Brand and Michael Jordan. Now, as the company again commemorates Juneteenth, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on work that goes beyond monetary investments, and celebrate an extraordinary year of progress for community-building. That includes furthering internal programs that increase representation and career advancement for women of color, and specifically designers and former WNBA athletes, and a host of Swoosh-created experiences for employees and community partners that promote and strengthen social justice.

“This momentum will only get stronger,” says Jarvis Sam, VP of Diversity and Inclusion. “We will continually reaffirm our commitment to the Black community, and develop a talent pipeline, within NIKE, Inc. and outside of it, that builds and drives representation. Following through on this work benefits the company, and moreover, it benefits the diverse communities we’ve pledged to support.”

NIKE, Inc.'s Commitment to Diversity, Education and Inclusivity 1

Here, Sam highlights five moments from the past year that helped NIKE, Inc. deepen its commitment to the Black community.

Commemorating and Celebrating Juneteenth

“In 2020, NIKE, Inc. made Juneteenth a company-wide holiday. We organized nearly a dozen employee events dedicated to bringing more awareness to the significance of the day and its importance for Black communities — and all communities — in the future.

This year, we'll again close all U.S. operations to commemorate Juneteenth, and to dive deeper, we’ve lined up two incredible weeks of employee programming with engaging internal and external speakers, as well as a sharp focus on academic experiences with leading authors.”

Hosting a First-Time “Hackathon”

“When my team and I talk about broadening the talent pipeline, we think about how to show young kids that we’re more than just a footwear and apparel company, but a business that leverages digital attributes and technologies to drive and power our brand and our consumers. While we know the technology industry is booming, racial and gender disparity is real. We saw an opportunity to address both points through one of our Black Community Commitment partners, Black Girls Code (BGC). This organization invests in young Black girls and getting them interested and involved in STEM programs from an early age. This past April, we teamed with BGC to host a three-day hackathon; more than 100 kids immediately signed up and the event was made possible by 150 Nike employee volunteers. These are moments that Nike can uniquely create, with the power of the employee and the power of activism, to help underrepresented groups.”

Supporting a Career-Defining Pitch Competition

“Another question on our minds was how Nike can invest in communities of color earlier and more often to expand potential, opportunity and the ability to engage. An answer came through another Black community commitment partner, Black Girl Ventures. This spring, we teamed with them to create a national pitch competition for Black and brown woman-identifying founders with businesses in the wellness, sports and tech industry. Melanie Harris, VP of Strategy & Development, served as one of the judges, and the winner, Kayla Castaneda, created a 100-percent fruit-derived aqua fresca. I love this example, because while the work may not be specifically tied to Nike, it shows that the access that we present can be a conduit to change the world.”

Creating a Touchstone for Employees

“One of our internal community-building efforts is our global Wake Up With BEN [Black Employee Network] sessions. These weekly, employee-driven Zooms are inspiring, therapeutic and they've been going for more than a year strong with more than 50 sessions. What started as a platform to facilitate connection and solidarity among our Black community during Covid-19 developed into a space for strong and powerful employee conversations. Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, we navigated issues of race and social inequity. The Network invited internal and external hosts to start engaging conversations, and they've also used the platform to teach classes on financial management and wellness.”

Providing Foundational Employee Education

“To me, this is the most powerful action we’ve taken. We partnered with Northwestern University and their Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy and the University of Southern California and their Center for Race and Equity to give educational programming to our leadership, and in the fall, we'll extend that training to every employee, from store athletes to distribution team members to those working at WHQ. These academies focused on authentic conversations — how to talk about race in the workplace, how to support transgender and nonbinary communities — and they help equip our team not just with background knowledge, but practical examples of how to apply essential lessons at work and in everyday life.”