It took four hours and more fancy stepping than Georgetown's McDonough Gymnasium has seen since the Hoyas went home for the summer, but by the time representatives from Operation PUSH and Nike Inc. emerged from their meeting late yesterday afternoon, the boycott was still on.
Nike President Richard K. Donahue and Chairman Philip J. Knight traveled from the Portland, Ore., headquarters to meet with PUSH National Executive Director Tyrone Crider and founder Jesse L. Jackson, they said, because Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson asked them to. Jackson and Crider, who had been turned aside in their independent requests for such a meeting, said the same thing.
Although Nike agreed to provide some additional "non-proprietary" information to PUSH on the sportswear firm's operations, both Knight and Donahue made it clear afterward that they are unprepared to respond to the group's other demands for minority involvement.
Donahue characterized the meeting as an "informational exchange," adding that the two-week-old boycott has had "absolutely zero" effect on the company's sales.
"Once they've examined what our record is, we feel they will say, 'Well done, go out and do more,' " he said. Nike has maintained that it has served the minority community well through charitable donations and hiring. PUSH, however, has said the company should be more willing to reveal the distribution of its minority employees and spend more money on advertising in black-owned publications and broadcast outlets.
Crider said that the two sides are now better acquainted, but that "in essence nothing has changed" that would make PUSH consider suspending its call for a boycott.
"It is not our goal to antagonize," Crider said. "We're simply using our legitimate consumer right not to do business with companies that do not do business with us." Crider said he plans to travel to Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Denver within the next several days to spread the boycott message, ultimately targeting youngsters as they return to school.
Both sides described the meeting as amicable, even though exchanges between PUSH and Nike have grown more heated in recent days. "I brought in a towel and a baseball bat at the beginning," said Thompson, who earns $200,000-a-year through his contract with Nike. "By the time it was over, I'd set them down."
But each side took ample opportunity to take additional shots at the other in front of reporters. "I was delighted to see Reverend Jackson doesn't take the boycott too seriously," said Knight. "He was wearing Cole-Haan shoes, which are made by Nike, and he didn't have black tape on them." PUSH officials have urged Nike apparel-owners to tape over the company's emblem on the items they already own.
And Jackson, referring to Nike's public accusations that PUSH has pursued Nike because it had cut a deal with competitor Reebok International, said: "So far, Nike has been far less interested in bringing a resolution to the crisis than with their obsession -- indeed paranoia -- about Reebok."
Donahue responded he would "have to take it at face value" that PUSH and Reebok are not working together to embarass Nike.
Thompson, who sat in on the meeting along with Jackson's son Jonathan, said he felt the dispute could not be resolved unless the two sides sat down to have a "sensitive and sensible conversation."
"What we're dealing with here has nothing to do with PUSH and Nike," he said. "It has to do with the sins of our society of the past." PUSH and Nike, he added, "weren't philosophically that far apart."
Boycott organizers, buoyed by Nike's precipitous slide on the stock market since the economic action was announced, said, however, that they are set to expand their effort.