‘Hey, @Nike — we’re just a quick jaunt over the border…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) As many flee the oppressive taxation and costs of doing business in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom hoped to butter up athletic-apparel company Nike on Tuesday, not with economic incentives but with left-wing virtue-signaling.
Nike faced immense backlash from conservatives after pulling a line of shoes that featured a “Betsy Ross” American flag with 13 stars, which controversial pitchman Colin Kaepernick deemed racist due to the flag’s associations with slavery.
In response, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced the withdrawal of a million dollar incentive grant and another million in waived fees for the company to locate a new manufacturing plant in the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear.
Nike, in turn, planned to invest $184.5 million in the plant with a promise of bringing around 500 jobs, according to the Associated Press.
The Oregon-based corporation has an estimated net worth of some $92 billion.
In recent years, Newsom’s state has dealt with a large-scale exodus of both industry and wealthy residents to more affordable neighboring regions like Arizona and Nevada.
But in the wake of the Nike controversy, the California governor saw an opportunity for revenge by attempting to poach the Arizona plant.
Hey, @Nike — we’re just a quick jaunt over the border…
Thank you for doing the right thing. CA is open for business and welcomes those that represent the best of our American values. pic.twitter.com/dLN7EuYBFS
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) July 3, 2019
Newsom recently made a similar appeal to disaffected movie-industry workers who, having left southern California to take advantage of tax incentives in areas like Georgia, found themselves alienated by red-state conservative values.
That included Georgia’s passage of a pro-life, “heartbeat” law restricting when pregnant women could seek an abortion.
In a Twitter video, Newsom besought the Tinsel Town refugees to “come back home.”
Thank you @CAGovernor for discussing recent actions taken by several states to outlaw abortion. In CA, we value women! If you’re currently filming in a state that is restricting women’s rights, then I encourage you to relocate to CA and share our values. #CaliforniaForAll pic.twitter.com/zfEuXXZkFK
— Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (@AsmLuzRivas) May 16, 2019
However, the idea that Nike would embrace a substantially higher corporate overhead simply to make a political point remained a dubious prospect.
The hiring of Kaepernick—the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback better known for his anthem kneeling than his athletic achievements—appeared to cement Nike’s divisive political stance, only to be reinforced by the recent recall of the flag-bearing Air Max 1 Quick Strikes.
It was a groundbreaking shift in paradigm for the company, which took a decidedly more innocuous approach in the past.
After declining to endorse the Democratic challenger in a 1990 North Carolina race, Nike pitchman Michael Jordan was famously reputed to have said, “Republicans buy sneakers too.”
But despite the change in strategy, industry analysts have noted that Nike’s hiring of Kaepernick remained a shrewdly calculated marketing gambit more than anything.
Nike’s affront to conservatives, even at the risk of a boycott, ultimately increased the company’s exposure and brand loyalty among its core demographic of younger consumers, who saw the move as an iconoclastic jab at the establishment.
Relocating its plant to California, while helping to reaffirm the company’s hard leftward shift, would not offer the same return on investment that its associations with Kaepernick afforded.
Rather, Newsom’s pitch was, in some ways, reminiscent of the disastrous efforts by Amazon to relocate its headquarters to tax-heavy New York earlier this year, only to scuttle the deal in March after its $1.7 billion in tax breaks and incentives came under harsh scrutiny from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, D-NY.
In a statement issued Tuesday in response to the recent flag flap, Nike downplayed its political posturing, claiming it had actually pulled the shoes to avoid creating controversy.
“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services,” it said, according to Fox News.
“NIKE made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday,” the statement said.
Bootlegged pairs of the limited-edition shoes that had already hit the market on Tuesday were selling online for $2,500—more than 20 times their original price, according to Bloomberg.