Athletes and Advocates for Worker’s Rights, a working group composed of athletes from multiple sports teams and student advocates, delivered a letter to University President John J. DeGioia’s office outlining its opposition to Nike’s unethical business practices and urging the university to cut ties with the company yesterday morning.
The group, which formed last week following a discussion on campus with sweatshop activist Jim Keady, argues that the athletics department should suspend its partnership with Nike. Twenty students-athletes and advocates signed the letter on behalf of the university’s student-athletes.
“Today we come to you with tape over the Nike logos of our Georgetown athletic apparel and Georgetown bookstore apparel because we refuse to be associated with a brand that is in direct opposition to Georgetown’s core values,” the letter reads.
AAWR stirred controversy last week after Keady posted a photo on Facebook that showed the Nike logo covered with tape on the university-provided shoes of three student-athletes.
The group cited the poor working and living conditions at Nike’s factories in Asia as its primary concern. After the event last week, several athletes teamed up with student advocates on campus, including Wearable Justice CEO and founder Jake Maxmin (COL ’17). The athletes requested anonymity, citing potential pushback from the athletics department.
In the letter, AAWR also highlighted the recent decision by Nike to refuse the Worker Rights Consortium — an international labor rights monitoring organization — access to its factories in Southeast Asia. According to the Office of Public Affairs website, Georgetown is a founding affiliate of the consortium, which serves to enforce manufacturing codes of conduct adopted by all affiliate colleges. As stated by the AAWR, Nike’s refusal directly puts Georgetown in violation of its WRC commitment.
“Being a current affiliate of the WRC means we require all brands that produce Georgetown apparel to disclose where their factories are and the conditions under which workers are producing apparel,” the letter reads. “Nike should not be an exception.”
According to Office of the President Chief of Staff Joe Ferrera, DeGioia has received the letter. Business Policy and Planning Director Cal Watson said that student concerns will be heard and considered by university officials.
“Students at Georgetown have a long history of engaging on the important issue of workers’ rights in the collegiate apparel industry,” Watson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “During its monthly meeting today, Georgetown’s Licensing Oversight Committee discussed the concerns about Nike that have been raised by some of our students. We are gathering more information and will continue to work with everyone involved.”
The athletics department has not issued a statement.
Maxmin said the decision to take a stand against Nike is an important way to raise awareness on the issue of workers’ rights and the need for ethically sourced apparel.
“We don’t want this just to be seen as athletes pressuring other athletes to boycott Nike,” Maxmin said. “We are students and athletes shedding light and raising consciousness about an issue on campus that we think is important, and that we think people should know about.”
An anonymous student-athlete said the letter serves as an effective way to inform the student body of AAWS’ mission.
“The reason that we released this letter is because we want the students at Georgetown to know what’s going on and to make their own decision,” the student-athlete said.
The anonymous student-athlete also said the movement is part of a larger development at universities across the country. AAWS has collaborated with United Students Against Sweatshops to create a day of action Thursday, in which groups across the country advocated for the cause.
“This isn’t just Georgetown. This is schools all over the U.S. that are concerned about this issue, and 40 schools dropped letters to their administration on Thursday to make their campus and their administration aware,” the student-athlete said.
Maxmin said that the letter is a result of a larger consensus of the student body and not restricted to a particular group of students.
“This letter is not representative of one single person, student or athlete’s point of view. This is a collective viewpoint of a larger group, a larger movement,” Maxmin said.
Maxmin also said further dialogue on the movement will occur Dec. 1 in a town hall, potentially featuring Office of Federal Relations Associate Vice President Scott Fleming, who also serves on the university Licensing and Oversight Committee and as a board member of the WRC.
Students in the AAWS stress that this movement comes from a desire to make sure Georgetown upholds its Jesuit values in all avenues of administration.
“As a Jesuit University, we educate ‘men and women for others,’ which means we must act when we see injustice,” the letter reads. “We love Georgetown, we believe in Georgetown and that is why we are asking this.”