Message of Fred Shotz


Nike Update and Call to Action


This long e-mail will update you as to the offensive Nike advertising campaign and will ask your support and action in seeking an appropriate response from Nike. Click here to see ad.

If you think that this ad just ran in one magazine you are incorrect. Nike has supplied me with the list of magazines in which this ad has appeared. They also told me that this ad has run in September, October, and November issues of these magazines. The list of magazines is Men's Fitness, Adventure Travel, Outside, Blue, National Geo Adventure, FHM, Stuff, Backpacker, Climbing, and Trailrunner. That is 10 magazines that each have national distribution. NIke, in response to our outrage has pulled the ad from 10 additional magazines in which this ad was supposed to run. Those publications are Blue Ridge Outdoors, Sports Etc., Competitor, City Sports, City Sports NW, Metro Sports, Rocky Mtn Sports, Twin City Sports and Windy City Sports. This was a large advertising campaign. It costs approximately $25,000 per magazine per issue for this size ad. That means that for each month that this ad was intended to run in all 20 magazines the cost would have been about one half a million dollars. As I said above this ad ran in some magazines in September, October, and November and would have run in all of their December issues.

It's great that Nike has pulled the ad and written a brief apology. However that does not repair the damage done by this ad. Hundreds of thousands of people have seen this ad and many more will still see it before all of the copies of magazines carrying this ad end up in the trash. That means that hundreds of thousands of people will have been exposed to this offensive stereotype of people with disabilities who use wheelchairs. Every person who already carries negative stereotypes of people with disabilities and who sees this ad will have had that negative beliefs reinforced and supported by the Nike ad. Picture the corporate human resources person who reads that ad on Sunday and then on Monday interviews a person using a wheelchair for employment. Will the ad color the perception of the applicant for employment? Will the ad decrease the chance of that person being offered the job? You bet!

The ADA was written and passed because people with disabilities face discrimination in this country. The ADA was not written to provide business to builders of ramps or to lawyers. The ADA was passed because of the negative and discriminatory attitudes held by the general public towards people with disabilities. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed one hope was that the law would, over time, help people to change their negative and discriminatory attitudes towards people of color. That same hope is embodied in the intent of the ADA. By people with disabilities having the opportunity to participate in all levels of society, over time, the negative and discriminatory attitudes of much of the general public will change.

I know of no research that can tell us how much attitudes towards people with disabilities have changed in the 10 years since the passage of the ADA. A few polls that have been conducted seem to suggest that we are making some progress. Thirty six years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there is still a great deal of work to be done in changing negative attitudes towards people of color. One of the focuses of groups such as the NAACP has been to have the negative stereotypes of people of color removed from entertainment and advertising. That focus is due to their conclusion that such stereotypes in entertainment and advertising perpetuate the negative attitudes towards people of color.

I believe that this Nike ad can undo any positive changes in the attitudes of people towards people with disabilities in those people exposed to this ad. The focus of this advertising campaign is the sports oriented segment of society including the "jocks" or our society. Efforts of the last 10 years to change the negative attitudes of this population group will easily be undone by this ad which plays right into the attitudes towards people with disabilities in this group. Picture an ad that painted people of color as lazy , shiftless, and of criminal intent. Now picture that ad being focused on the segment of society most likely to have held that attitude in the past. Is there any question that many of those people would return to their prior attitudes with that kind of support of their prejudicial attitudes?

It is going to take far more than a short apology and an appearance on a disability oriented radio show (a show that is listened to by people with disabilities but not by the general public) to undo this damage. It is going to take an advertising campaign as large as this advertising campaign was supposed to be to repair this damage. My proposal is that the advertising agency that created this advertisement provide people with disabilities with an advertising campaign that presents a pro disability posture and a pro ADA posture. This work should be done for free as an apology to people with disabilities. The advertising developed by this ad agency should be as sophisticated as the ads they develop for Nike.

The next part of my proposal is that Nike pay for the placement of these ads in national magazines that have circulations equivalent to the circulations of the magazines in which the offensive ad has run. The pro disability, pro ADA ads should be placed in the number of magazines and for the number of issues that equals the run of this offensive ad. So, if the offensive Nike ad ran in 5 magazines for 3 months, 2 magazines for 2 months and 3 magazines for 1 month, and all magazines had circulation of 100,000 then Nike would run the pro disability, pro ADA ads a total of 22 times in magazines with average circulation of 100,000. Keep in mind that this is just an example, the number of runs of this offensive ad is not yet known nor is the circulation of the magazines in which it ran. Such an advertising campaign would equal the cost to Nike of running the offensive ad campaign. If we pick the publications to focus on populations likely to change their attitudes by exposure to these ads we can balance those with reinforced negative attitudes with people who have increasing positive attitudes.

The last part of my proposal is based on an idea first presented by Marcie Roth of the National Council on Independent Living. Marcie suggested a substantial donation to the Spinal Cord Injury Network. Considering that this offensive advertisement targeted people with spinal cord injuries I believe that Marcie's idea is excellent. Since Nike has withdrawn this offensive ad from 10 magazines for no less than one month in each magazine Nike has saved somewhere in the area of $250,000 based on an average cost of $25,000 per magazine per month. Since Nike was planning to spend this money promoting negative attitudes towards people with disabilities it seems only fair that they contribute this money to an organization that supports the people attacked in this offensive advertisement.

It is possible that my dollar numbers are a little high as Nike may get better advertising rates based on how much advertising they do. It is just as possible that my numbers are low and that their financial commitment to this offensive advertisement could be as high as one million dollars. Whatever amount Nike spent and planned to spend on an advertisement that was degrading to people with disabilities and that supported negative stereotyping is the amount that Nike should commit to helping to improve attitudes towards people with disabilities and towards an substantial financial apology to people with spinal cord injuries.



If you agree with my position on this issue and if you believe that my proposal is reasonable then your support is needed. Nike needs to hear from hundreds if not thousands of us. Each one of us needs to tell Nike that we want them to pay for a pro disability advertising campaign equal to the anti disability campaign that they ran. Each one of us need to tell Nike that they need to apologize to people with spinal cord injuries by making a substantial donation to the Spinal Cord Injury Network. Don't feel that we are asking too much. The money that I am suggesting Nike spend to right this wrong is less than they would spend advertising their products on television on one Superbowl game. For a company the size of Nike this is not a great deal of money. It is enough money however that they will think long and hard before running such an ad campaign again.

Please send an e-mail to Nike supporting this proposal. Please forward this e-mail to everyone you know. Please forward this e-mail to every disability related list and discussion group to which you are a member. We must let Nike know that they cannot damage our progress in changing attitudes towards people with disabilities and then simply say I'm sorry and walk away from the damage they have caused.

To write to Nike please send your e-mail to Lee Weinstein, Director U.S.A. Communications, NIke, Inc. The e-mail address is When Lee comes to work on Monday let's greet him with a couple thousand e-mails in his inbox. If you want to phone Lee Weinstein on Monday his telephone number is 503-671-3080. You can also call the office of the C.E.O. of Nike, Philip Knight, at 503-671-6453.

Again, in your e-mails and calls please tell Nike that you expect them to pay for an advertising campaign that will help to undo the damage done by their offensive ads. Tell them that you expect them to apologize to people with spinal cord injuries by making a substantial donation to the Spinal Cord Injury Network. Ask everyone you know to join you in sending Nike this message.

Frederick A. Shotz, President
Association of Disability Advocates


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