England defender, Gary Neville, has questioned Nike’s motives for their prominent anti-racist campaign. Neville raised his concerns after the England – Holland friendly on Wednesday 9 February 2005, during which Holland dropped its famous orange strip in favour of Nike’ black & white “Stand Up, Speak Up” kit. England, who aren’t sponsored by Nike, wore their red kit with the “No to racism” statement added on the front and the Kick It Out logo on the sleeve.
Neville said of the campaign,
“We have to make sure that the campaign is conducted in the right manner and not done just for PR, like some of the sports companies seem to be doing at the moment. The FA and the England team have always campaigned against racism very well. We have just got to be aware that it is not cheapened slightly by companies like Nike getting a lot of PR out of it for nothing.”
Nike, who have a £300m sponsorship deal with Neville’s club – Manchester United, rebuked the claims. Nike UK’s Simon Charlesworth said,
“The campaign isn't about publicity, it's about racism, and the fact remains that there is racism in football. We've spoken with all the relevant bodies such as Kick It Out, and we've had their approval. Even Gary Neville's team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, has come down to London to help with the campaign.”
Some campaigners are indeed cautious of Nike’s sudden interest in anti-racism. The campaign was launched upon the football community with little or no consultation with established campaigners, and it is still unclear as to what the King Baudouin Foundation will do with the money raised from the sale of the Nike wristbands.
Piara Powar, of UK FARE partner, Kick It Out, said,
“I can understand the concerns Gary Neville has expressed. British football has an increasingly good record on anti-racism, and it is important that new initiatives work with existing campaigns and are not one-offs.”