Nike co-founder Phil Knight appeared on “CBS This Morning” today (May 9, 2018) to discuss an array of topics, including his book Shoe Dogs, an examination of the history of Nike. He was also asked to speak about recent news that the company has let go of as many as 11 senior management employees because of complaints about a hostile work environment favoring the advancement of men over women.
“Overall how Nike is doing is we’re doing fine, sales and earnings are growing, but we did have a shock within the last couple of months that a certain number of managers were bullying employees,” Knight commented. “And it was a shock to me personally and to a lot of the upper-management and it’s disappointing as well as a shock, it’s very disappointing. But I’m proud of the company the way it responded to the problems that it saw and it’s basically cleaning house for those people.”
On the importance of reaching out to the female customer, Knight stated, “The female market has been extremely important to us for a very long time. You pointed out in the intro, Serena Williams is a role model for all of us.”
It’s hard to imagine shock is the actual emotion Knight experienced. As pointed out on Twitter by Wall Street Journal reporter Sara Germano, whose paper broke the Nike story in March, “Phil Knight says he’s shocked to hear of bullying at Nike. This is a direct quote from his memoir, Shoe Dog, about the company’s early days: ‘Our meetings were defined by contempt, disdain, and heaps of abuse.'”
You can find our analysis of the challenges Nike is facing because of its cultural roots here.
Check out Knight’s exchange below.