Let’s talk about Nike & the row that erupted last week when they partnered with Dylan Mulvaney, a trans-woman & model, who is modelling their sports bras (see links at the bottom)

There are a lot of people who are angry about a trans-woman modelling sports bras.

To those people: Nike supporting Trans women & giving them a platform, doesn’t mean the company is morally bankrupt or that they are against cis-women.

The real signs of Nike’s moral bankruptcy might be seen in its treatment of pregnant athletes, of its employees & of people in their sweatshops (see links at the bottom for more specifics)

Many companies are outwardly inclusive because it’s good for the bottom line – people stay for longer & hopefully more products/services are sold to a bigger number of consumers.

What Nike has been doing for years is riding the corporate & cultural zeitgeist of inclusion. You might call it performative, aka virtue signalling.

That’s definitely something to hold in disdain if you believe that’s what’s happening. (It would be interesting to see how included Nike’s people feel.)

And for those who think Nike are doing great for Trans-inclusion: we have to see there is an imperative to all these actions.

Being visibly in support of the Trans community – similarly to the way they did with Muslim customers when they had athletes in hijabs modelling sportswear – is ultimately a business decision.

This could be considered to be performative allyship. Especially if you consider Nike’s actions towards it’s people and the sports stars it sponsors. (Want examples of Nike not being inclusive? see links at the bottom!)

So why does this matter to any SLT team member who might be reading this?

Consider this:
Your risk V reward reality is going to be totally different to that of Nike. The same rules simply don’t apply.

Nike can make marketing moves that most companies couldn’t even imagine. And if those moves go south, it will barely register on their bottom line. That is just not the case for most companies.

What does that mean for SLT’s of non-Nikes?

Firstly, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support the Trans community, or any under-represented community.

But it does mean you need to take advice and take measured steps before embarking on internal and external marketing campaigns.

Advice that isn’t solely driven by contemporary ideas of what corporate behaviour ‘should look like’ because, let’s be real, these ideas seem to be shifting pretty quickly & pretty seismically since the world became uber-connected.

So it’s FAR more important that you stay true to your values with ALL your business decisions, not just the shiny & glitzy front-facing ones that get you fawned over, hated, or both! But also, the unsexy ones that no-one seems to care about until they realise you’ve effed up.


  • https://www.thepinknews.com/2023/04/08/nike-dylan-mulvaney-advert-leggins-transphobia/
  • https://www.insider.com/allyson-felix-nike-maternity-ad-brilliant-but-hard-to-watch-2021-3
  • https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a35877784/alysia-montano-nike-maternity-ad/
  • https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/08/nike-launches-hijab-for-female-muslim-athletes
  • https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/dec/20/nike-lawsuit-records-sexual-abuse-toxic-workplace-claim
  • https://thethaiger.com/hot-news/nike-defends-sweatshops-accusation-in-thailand
  • https://www.newidea.com.au/nike-sweatshops-the-truth-about-the-nike-factory-scandal
  • https://www.discoursemagazine.com/economics/2022/01/05/the-china-challenge-the-stain-of-forced-labor-on-nike-shoes/