Contract Controversy: Nike and Penn State

Penn State has been a longtime friend of famous athletic brand Nike. For years, Penn State has held a contract with Nike that allows for the sale of Nike and Penn State apparel. The contract between the two was intended to expire on Jan. 31, until it was released that Penn State would seek a contract extension in order to negotiate terms of a new contract.

This was a big shock to the Penn State United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) group. For about a year, USAS has campaigned against the renewal of the contract with Nike. This specifically came after a report that claims Nike was using a sweatshop in Vietnam to manufacture clothing.

For those unfamiliar with USAS, they are a “democratic non-hierarchical student-run organization that seeks to work with and empower workers to improve their working conditions,” according to their website.

USAS met with Penn State President Eric Barron in which they dicussed the contract. Samantha Mathews, vice-president of USAS, told the Daily Collegian that during the meeting they “were told that he would let our contract with Nike expire.”

So when Lisa Powers, the senior director of strategic communications, said in a statement that “Penn State has sought an extension to the contract to allow more time to negotiate satisfactory terms of our licensing agreement with Nike, which take into account concerns about workers’ rights,” the members of USAS were quite surprised.

Emily Gifford, USAS president, recently told the Daily Collegian that they are “definitely not happy about that. I think its frustrating because we were explicitly told one thing and they did another.”

It is important to note that this contract is separate from the contract between Nike and Penn State regarding athletic uniforms and coach apparel, which expires in 2022.

Nike, due to it’s history of sweatshop allegations, has had issues with other student-run anti-sweatshop groups in the past. Nike had pulled out of contract with Brown University’s women’s ice hockey team after the company refused to agree to a code of conduct that an anti-sweatshop group proposed.

Negotiations between Penn State and Nike are still underway. Valley is sitting tight and waiting for Penn State to make the right choice.