Standing Up to the Swoosh

One Man's Crusade Against Nike

Of course, Keady, now without a teaching or coaching job, will have to face the question of making his living when he comes home this week. That predicament, says Doug Beaumont, who sometimes roomed with Keady on St. John's road trips, is sad—but also admirable: "To lose your job and have people blackball you, but to stand up for your beliefs, is incredible." For his part, Keady seems undaunted by unemployment. Last week in Indonesia he was trying to cobble together an activist speaking tour upon his return. In the end, Keady allows that he sorely misses playing and coaching, but he's come around to seeing it this way: "The world is a whole lot bigger than soccer."

Responding to Keady

"Nike is paying a starvation wage in Indonesia," says Jim Keady. "I know—I starved on it."
photo: Dominique Vitali
"Nike is paying a starvation wage in Indonesia," says Jim Keady. "I know—I starved on it."

St. John's University has long maintained that it did not force Jim Keady to leave his job at the school for refusing to wear Nike gear, and it cites approvingly a federal judge's finding two weeks ago—in dismissing a lawsuit Keady filed last year—that Keady resigned his job "on his own accord, as 'a troubling matter of conscience.' " Keady says he'll appeal the dismissal. St. John's also says it is committed to combating sweatshops. The Reverend James J. Maher, chair of the university's Code of Conduct Task Force, says that St. John's is now contributing more money than any other college to both the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities and the Fair Labor Association, groups that are supposed to monitor labor conditions in third-world factories. And he says that he has been "truly impressed by steps that Nike has taken" to improve conditions for its workers.

Indeed, Nike says that Jim Keady and other activists "have certainly chosen the right issue but are targeting the wrong company." According to Vada Manager, Nike's director of global-issues management, "We have made considerable improvements in the way we do business in the world." In Vietnam, for example, the company allowed an independent health and safety monitor into the factory where carcinogens had been found at 177 percent of legal levels, and he reported "important improvements." In Indonesia, Nike says it has boosted entry-level wages above the country's minimum, and has raised the age minimums for apparel workers to 16 years and for footwear workers to 18 years. The company helped found both the Global Alliance and the Fair Labor Association. As for Keady's Indonesia trip, Nike is less than impressed. In an online response, the company argues that "Keady does not understand Nike's global manufacturing processes, nor has he made an effort to do so. His perspective amounts to self-fulfilling conclusions."

St. Francis Preparatory School would not comment on Keady, though it cited failures to carry out teaching duties and violations of school policy in dismissing him.

« Previous Page