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Nike Founder Halts Donations to University of Oregon
Associated Press: Tuesday, April 25, 2000 6:31PM

Nike founder Phil Knight said Monday he will make no further donations to his alma mater, the University of Oregon, because of its membership in a student-driven labor rights organization that has criticized Nike.

"Nike will honor its contractual commitment. But for me personally there will be no further donations of any kind to the University of Oregon. At this time, this is not a situation that can be resolved,'' he said in a statement.

"The bonds of trust, which allowed me to give at a high level, have been shredded,'' he said.

Knight noted he has given $50 million to the school in Eugene -- $30 million for athletics and $20 million for academics. He had been expected to also be a substantial donor to a planned expansion of the university's Autzen Stadium.

University President David Frohnmayer said Knight's generosity has helped the university.

"We are disappointed to hear that he plans to curtail future contributions to the University of Oregon,'' he said in a statement. "I still hope to speak with him in person and look forward to working with him in the future.''

Labor practices at factories under contract to the shoe and sportswear giant around the globe have come under criticism from several universities across the country.

Knight said he was "shocked'' to learn on April 14 that the university had joined the Workers Rights Consortium. Beaverton-based Nike supports another group, the Fair Labor Association, in the fight against sweatshop labor.

At issue is who will monitor factories that produce apparel to ensure safe and humane working conditions, and whose code of conduct will companies be held to.

Businesses largely support the association, which gives more leeway to manufacturers, allowing them a greater say in how monitoring is carried out and putting limits on the release of inspection results. The association also gives businesses strong representation on its board of directors.

Student activists have supported the consortium, which doesn't allow corporate representatives on its board. The consortium intends to keep corporations at arm's length, conducting surprise inspections with independent monitors and releasing the results of its inspections.

Nike has contracts with almost 200 colleges, and many of them, including the University of Oregon, are members of the consortium.

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