It's almost like the people doing the work are products to be exploited

Nike surrendered. Dropping their lawsuit against Boris Berian was less a voluntary action and more an act of self-preservation. For those not following the case, Berian had a contract with short-term contract with Nike that allowed them to match offers if Boris found a better deal when the contract ended. Berian signed with New Balance for $125,000 after the Nike contract expired. Nike said they matched the offer - except theirs had 'reduction' clauses. 

The reduction clauses triggered mass mockery from athletes in the social media. Effectively, Nike wanted to match with as little as fifty cents on the dollar, with the argument that this was industry standard. Numerous individuals - led by Jesse Williams, Nick Symmonds, and Sally Bergesenn,the Oiselle CEO - filed briefs in support of Berian that stated that the reduction clauses were not standard. Bergesen, in her brief, stated unequivocally, "In my experience, in talking with other sponsors and industry leaders, reductions, as well as option years, are viewed as being abusive to athletes."


The speculation was that Nike retreated due to the skepticism shown by the presiding judge, but don't under-estimate the PR debacle that was growing. Nike has not enjoyed a good couple of years, what with the bribery scandal in Kenya, the questions regarding PED's and the Nike Oregon Project, the 'buying' of the USATF, and the unusual no-bid award of the World Championships to Eugene. The hits, as they say, keep coming. The news that Nike might just consider the athletes to be disposable products certainly would not help their image.

It also reminds me of the way that the publishing houses treat authors. Kris Rusch does a fantastic job of educating new authors to the dangers of dealing with publishing houses. Instead of reduction clauses, they co-opt (steal) as many rights as they can, place restrictions on what an author can write through non-compete clauses, and use sliding-scale royalty clauses that ensure that they always get paid for their work while reducing the author absorbs the entirety of price reductions for deeply discounted books at Costco and Walmart. 

Or Disney bringing in H1B visa-holders to replace their existing engineering staff. Adding insult to injury, Disney required the soon-to-be-laid-off engineers to train they're replacements. The abuse of the H1B program is rampant at Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and the rest of the tech companies.

All this points to a larger problem. Major corporations do not believe that people matter. They see labor purely as a line number on the financial statements. The lower that number, the more money Google or Facebook makes. Investors love more profits, the stock market value goes up, and it's all good.

I disagree. I understand that labor is absolutely subject to the same supply and demand laws as everything else. It is because of this understanding that I oppose programs like the H1B visas and unlimited criminal immigration. Both work to devalue the labor of the American employee. Mother Jones has a nice recap from 2013. I don't agree with them much, but here there is common cause.

That is shameful.

Likewise, Nike's reduction clauses or Hachette's copyright grabs seek to exploit the value of the work of the athlete or author while retaining all, or the majority of, the benefits to the corporation. Run, Boris, run, but not for New Balance and how dare Nick Symmonds wear something other than Nike apparel in his hotel.

That's why I don't buy Nike products any more - I flat don't trust them. Instead, I'll spend my money on shoes from Edna, the Kenyan start-up. Ditto, USATF. I sponsor my local cross country team, but I won't spend a dime for the USAFT if I can possibly help it.

I'm turning into a curmudgeon in my old age. I still think that the people around me matter. I wish our corporations and sports federations thought the same. Athletes should not be treated like prized racehorses, and shot (financially) if they break a leg. They're people who deserved to be treated with respect for the efforts they put forth and rewarded accordingly.