Sneaker and sportswear giant Nike and their subsidiary company Converse had their second annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on May 13. Police officers all over the country were able to receive 30% off their purchases at the companies’ retail stores. All the officers had to do was flash their badges at the register. According to a flyer circulating on social media, the initiative was part of National Police Week.
There is nothing new about companies offering discounts to military and law enforcement. Multi-billion dollar corporations and mom and pop stores alike have been offering freebies and discounts to the boys in blue (and camouflage) for ages. However, some were disturbed by the timing of this celebration.
Perhaps at no other point in American history has police violence against black people been more discussed, debated and analyzed on all of the major networks, newspapers and magazines, not to mention dinner tables. Thanks to social media, this critical national conversation about race and law enforcement has many more participants today than it did 50 years ago.
Activist DeRay McKesson posted the image of the discount flyer and tweeted, “The police have killed 420 people in 2015. America.” The hashtag #BoycottNike became a trending topic, with some calling on athletes who have lucrative endorsement deals with Nike and Converse to take a stand on the issue. One Twitter user asked if Nike would also offer 30% off to victims of unjust police violence. Others wondered how much Nike has reinvested in the black community since so many of its customers are young black people.
But not everyone was on board with a boycott of the footwear giant. Critics of #BoycottNike saw nothing wrong with giving police officers discounts. After all, the majority of police officers are hard-working and honest people who should be thanked for their service.
Another faction of Twitterers were annoyed by the call for a boycott now after some groups have been advocating for a Nike boycott for years due to human rights violations at international manufacturing facilities referred to as sweatshops. Nike has previously admitted to the use of child labor (though it said it did so by “accident”) and vowed to not allow the practice to happen again.
The social media accounts of both Nike and Converse are silent about the criticism, and none of the public accounts even have the flyer posted as of the publication of this article. A call made to a Nike store in Manhattan confirmed that May 13 was in fact Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at Nike and Converse stores and officers were able to receive 30% off of their purchases.