Sports icon Nike pledged its commitment to promoting LGBT equality in sports when it launched the #BeTrue line of shoes and other sports paraphernalia in June 2012. Rather than use the merchandise and advertising campaign to merely raise awareness, the company pledged that all proceeds from the line would be donated to the LGBT Sports Coalition—and in October 2013, they followed through on that promise with a $200,000 donation.
According to Campus Pride, an affiliate of the coalition, Nike’s contribution “is the first donation made to the Coalition, and it’s the largest donation ever made by the Nike LGBT & Friends employee network.”
The LGBT Sports Coalition, which was officially established at the Nike LGBT Sports Summit in June 2012, is a collaboration of groups and individuals with the goal of ending anti-LGBT sentiment in sports by the year 2016.
Producing a line of rainbow-themed merchandise aimed at men as well as women may seem risky in regards to profit margins, if nothing else, but those in the know say otherwise. According to ThinkProgress, “the shoes and clothes Nike produced to market the cause fit squarely into a trend in sports fashion that was already pushing the boundaries of acceptability and comfort for the stereotypical straight male athlete. That trend—Grantland’s Wesley Morris has called it ‘the quiet queering of professional sports’—has blurred lines between men and women and what might be perceived as unacceptable or gay or simply weird.”
Nike has a long history of promoting inclusion, and not just to make themselves look good; the more equal the playing field of the sports world is, the more potential business opportunities there are. As a result, other companies, including some of Nike’s direct competitors, are beginning to follow their example—by standing up for equality themselves.