Thu Trang traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 2019, ecstatic to get a job at a factory. She worked eight-hour shifts and was guaranteed overtime pay, and the wages were nearly triple what she had made as a farmer back home.
But during a Covid-19 outbreak this summer, the factory where she worked making Adidas, Converse and New Balance shoes virtually shut down. She and her co-workers were forced to live in a cramped apartment for nearly three months, subsisting on a diet of rice and soy sauce. In October, when restrictions loosened as global supply chain issues surged, Thu Trang decided she would pack up and return to her home province, Tra Vinh.
Her manager promised her higher wages, but she didn’t bother to find out how much.
“Even if the company doubles or triples our wages, I insist on moving back home,” said Thu Trang, who asked to be identified only by her first name because she feared retribution from her company and the government. “Ho Chi Minh City was once a destination where we sought our future, but this is no longer a safe place.”
Just last year, Vietnam’s coronavirus controls were lauded by health officials around the world. The country was so successful that it achieved the highest economic growth in Asia last year, at 2.9 percent. That outlook has dimmed: Workers have fled their factories, managers are struggling to get them back, and economists are forecasting that a full recovery in output won’t come until next year.
monthslong factory shutdowns in the Southeast Asian country. It could mean a longer wait for Nike sneakers,Lululemon yoga pants and Under Armour tank tops before the holidays.Several American retailers have already switched to suppliers in China to ease the crunch.
Patagonia and other brands.
Ms. Doan said that when the government imposed coronavirus restrictions, she went days without food and received only about $130 for August and September from local authorities. The subsidy was not enough for her to pay rent. She said shewas waiting for the company to approve her resignation.
“My trust in the authorities has vanished,” she said. “They failed to control the pandemic effectively, causing many to die from infection and to live in hunger.”
the deliveries of gifts during the Christmas season.
Nike cut its 2022 revenue growth forecast, sayingin September that it had lost 10 weeks of production because 80 percent of its footwear factories were in the south of Vietnam and nearly half of its apparel factories in the country were closed.
On earnings calls, Chico’s, a women’s clothing maker based in Florida, and Callaway, the golf company, said they had moved some of their production out of Vietnam.
Adam Sitkoff, the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, said many companies were looking for workarounds and other remedies to help ease the stress.
“American companies are seeing what they can do,” Mr. Sitkoff said. “If we charter buses and send them to whatever province and hometown, will that help us get the people back?”
American businesses have pushed the Vietnamese government to speed up its vaccine program, which they say is essential for workers to feel safe.Only 29 percent of the population has been fully inoculated, one of the lowest rates in Southeast Asia. Vietnam says it hopes to fully vaccinate 70 percent of its population by the end of the year.
Nguyen Huyen Trang, a 25-year-old worker for Changshin Vietnam, a major supplier for Nike, is fully vaccinated but said she still feared being back on the factory floor. Ms. Nguyen and her husband returned to their home inNinh Thuan, a province in central Vietnam, from Dong Nai when cases there started soaring at the end of July. Her husband wants to go back to the city, but her family is pressuring her to stay.
She said her manager called her in October and offered to increase her wages if she returned. Her response, she said, was “a definite head-shaking no.”
Ms. Carreon-John noted that more than a third of the U.S. track and field women’s roster is made up of Nike athletes. “Individual situations of a handful of athletes are not representative of Nike’s support of women’s sport,” she said, adding, “No footwear, apparel or equipment manufacturer provides the level of support Nike provides to women’s sport, period.”
To be sure, Nike is a huge company and has supported a sprawling number of athletes for decades. “Nike has done a lot of great things, but sometimes when you’re the big brand, there are more opportunities to get things wrong at the end of the day,” said Merhawi Keflezighi, founder of HAWI Management, who represented Mr. Berian and manages Ms. Pappas. He commended the company for changing its policies for pregnant athletes and added that since 2016, the industry has become less aggressive about reduction clauses in contracts.
The new sponsorship opportunities are arising as the athletic apparel market continues to grow — a trend further fueled by the pandemic. Athleta and Lululemon were among the rare apparel brands that saw sales soar last year. In the running world, there were five to six brands that were more visible at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., in June than in the past, Ms. Neuburger of Lululemon said.
“The athletic sportswear and athleisure market is transforming from growth to maturity with newer and rising entrants,” said Angeline Close Scheinbaum, associate professor of marketing at Clemson University. “So naturally, a shift in athlete endorsers from the market leader to other brands is occurring.”
Dr. Scheinbaum said that she viewed the trend as less of an exodus from established leaders and more about “athletes, especially women, joining a smaller brand that can become synonymous with these star athletes and their platforms and stories.”
Indeed, brands that are pursuing elite women athletes are keen to embrace their backgrounds and causes that matter to them. Ms. Cain said that the most famous women athletes have often become household names because they have an “and” tied to their performance — “athlete and activist” or “athlete and mental health advocate,” she said.
“Unless you have five different ways to sell yourself, you’re just not valued monetarily in the same way as the white dude next to you is,” she said. While that dynamic is unfair, she said, it has created a situation where women athletes often have bigger and more engaged followings online, and more brands are starting to take notice of that.
In the story of how the modern world was constructed, Toyota stands out as the mastermind of a monumental advance in industrial efficiency. The Japanese automaker pioneered so-called Just In Time manufacturing, in which parts are delivered to factories right as they are required, minimizing the need to stockpile them.
Over the last half-century, this approach has captivated global business in industries far beyond autos. From fashion to food processing to pharmaceuticals, companies have embraced Just In Time to stay nimble, allowing them to adapt to changing market demands, while cutting costs.
But the tumultuous events of the past year have challenged the merits of paring inventories, while reinvigorating concerns that some industries have gone too far, leaving them vulnerable to disruption. As the pandemic has hampered factory operations and sown chaos in global shipping, many economies around the world have been bedeviled by shortages of a vast range of goods — from electronics to lumber to clothing.
In a time of extraordinary upheaval in the global economy, Just In Time is running late.
“It’s sort of like supply chain run amok,” said Willy C. Shih, an international trade expert at Harvard Business School. “In a race to get to the lowest cost, I have concentrated my risk. We are at the logical conclusion of all that.”
shortage of computer chips — vital car components produced mostly in Asia. Without enough chips on hand, auto factories from India to the United States to Brazil have been forced to halt assembly lines.
But the breadth and persistence of the shortages reveal the extent to which the Just In Time idea has come to dominate commercial life. This helps explain why Nike and other apparel brands struggle to stock retail outlets with their wares. It’s one of the reasons construction companies are having trouble purchasing paints and sealants. It was a principal contributor to the tragic shortages of personal protective equipment early in the pandemic, which left frontline medical workers without adequate gear.
a shortage of lumber that has stymied home building in the United States.
Suez Canal this year, closing the primary channel linking Europe and Asia.
“People adopted that kind of lean mentality, and then they applied it to supply chains with the assumption that they would have low-cost and reliable shipping,” said Mr. Shih, the Harvard Business School trade expert. “Then, you have some shocks to the system.”
An Idea That Went ‘Way Too Far’
presentation for the pharmaceutical industry. It promised savings of up to 50 percent on warehousing if clients embraced its “lean and mean” approach to supply chains.
Such claims have panned out. Still, one of the authors of that presentation, Knut Alicke, a McKinsey partner based in Germany, now says the corporate world exceeded prudence.
“We went way too far,” Mr. Alicke said in an interview. “The way that inventory is evaluated will change after the crisis.”
Many companies acted as if manufacturing and shipping were devoid of mishaps, Mr. Alicke added, while failing to account for trouble in their business plans.
“There’s no kind of disruption risk term in there,” he said.
Experts say that omission represents a logical response from management to the incentives at play. Investors reward companies that produce growth in their return on assets. Limiting goods in warehouses improves that ratio.
study. These savings helped finance another shareholder-enriching trend — the growth of share buybacks.
In the decade leading up to the pandemic, American companies spent more than $6 trillion to buy their own shares, roughly tripling their purchases, according to a study by the Bank for International Settlements. Companies in Japan, Britain, France, Canada and China increased their buybacks fourfold, though their purchases were a fraction of their American counterparts.
Repurchasing stock reduces the number of shares in circulation, lifting their value. But the benefits for investors and executives, whose pay packages include hefty allocations of stock, have come at the expense of whatever the company might have otherwise done with its money — investing to expand capacity, or stockpiling parts.
These costs became conspicuous during the first wave of the pandemic, when major economies including the United States discovered that they lacked capacity to quickly make ventilators.
“When you need a ventilator, you need a ventilator,” Mr. Sodhi said. “You can’t say, ‘Well, my stock price is high.’”
When the pandemic began, car manufacturers slashed orders for chips on the expectation that demand for cars would plunge. By the time they realized that demand was reviving, it was too late: Ramping up production of computer chips requires months.
stock analysts on April 28. The company said the shortages would probably derail half of its production through June.
The automaker least affected by the shortage is Toyota. From the inception of Just In Time, Toyota relied on suppliers clustered close to its base in Japan, making the company less susceptible to events far away.
‘It All Cascades’
In Conshohocken, Pa., Mr. Romano is literally waiting for his ship to come in.
He is vice president of sales at Van Horn, Metz & Company, which buys chemicals from suppliers around the world and sells them to factories that make paint, ink and other industrial products.
In normal times, the company is behind in filling perhaps 1 percent of its customers’ orders. On a recent morning, it could not complete a tenth of its orders because it was waiting for supplies to arrive.
The company could not secure enough of a specialized resin that it sells to manufacturers that make construction materials. The American supplier of the resin was itself lacking one element that it purchases from a petrochemical plant in China.
One of Mr. Romano’s regular customers, a paint manufacturer, was holding off on ordering chemicals because it could not locate enough of the metal cans it uses to ship its finished product.
“It all cascades,” Mr. Romano said. “It’s just a mess.”
No pandemic was required to reveal the risks of overreliance on Just In Time combined with global supply chains. Experts have warned about the consequences for decades.
In 1999, an earthquake shook Taiwan, shutting down computer chip manufacturing. The earthquake and tsunami that shattered Japan in 2011 shut down factories and impeded shipping, generating shortages of auto parts and computer chips. Floods in Thailand the same year decimated production of computer hard drives.
Each disaster prompted talk that companies needed to bolster their inventories and diversify their suppliers.
Each time, multinational companies carried on.
The same consultants who promoted the virtues of lean inventories now evangelize about supply chain resilience — the buzzword of the moment.
Simply expanding warehouses may not provide the fix, said Richard Lebovitz, president of LeanDNA, a supply chain consultant based in Austin, Texas. Product lines are increasingly customized.
“The ability to predict what inventory you should keep is harder and harder,” he said.
Ultimately, business is likely to further its embrace of lean for the simple reason that it has yielded profits.
“The real question is, ‘Are we going to stop chasing low cost as the sole criteria for business judgment?’” said Mr. Shih, from Harvard Business School. “I’m skeptical of that. Consumers won’t pay for resilience when they are not in crisis.”
Paul Van Doren, a founder of Vans, the Southern California sneaker company that became synonymous with skateboarding almost by chance and then grew into a multibillion-dollar business, died on May 6 in Fullerton, Calif. He was 90.
His death, at the home of one of his children, was confirmed by a representative for VF Corporation, which now owns Vans. He lived in Las Vegas.
Mr. Van Doren founded the Van Doren Rubber Company in 1966 with the investor Serge D’Elia and soon brought on his younger brother James and Gordon Lee, a colleague from his years working for another sneaker manufacturer.
The idea was straightforward: sell high-quality but inexpensive sneakers from a store adjacent to a factory in Anaheim. The company handled production on-site, making it easy to fill orders of different sizes and allowing buyers to customize their shoes in a rainbow of colors and patterns.
Los Angeles magazine this year. “And here’s a company listening to them, backing them and making shoes for them.”
Vans provided Mr. Alva and Mr. Peralta with free shoes and sponsored them as part of a team of professional skateboarders, an arrangement that became a model in the skateboard shoe business.
The company went on to develop new styles, like the Old Skool, which has leather panels on the toe and heel for increased durability; the Sk8-Hi, an Old Skool with a padded high-top collar to protect ankles from errant boards; and a laceless canvas slip-on equipped with the signature Vans sole.
By the early 1980s the shoes were available in about 70 Vans stores, mostly in Southern California, and in outlets around the country. The shoes had earned a following among skateboarders, surfers and BMX bicyclists but were not widely known outside of those core markets.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
Frank Ocean wore checkerboard slip-ons to the White House to meet President Barack Obama.
Vans has collaborated on custom shoes with the labels Kenzo and Supreme, companies like Disney, the music makers Public Enemy and Odd Future and the contemporary artist Takashi Murakami. Customers can design their own shoes on the company’s website.
But Vans remains tied to its original demographic, continuing to sponsor skateboarders, snowboarders, surfers and other athletes and run surfing and skateboarding contests around the world. For nearly 25 years it funded the Warped Tour music festival, which featured skateboarding demonstrations.
“We lost our founding father, but his roots run deep with us,” Mr. Alva wrote on Instagram after Mr. Van Doren’s death.
Paul Joseph Van Doren was born on June 12, 1930, to John and Rita (Caparelli) Van Doren and grew up in Braintree, Mass., south of Boston. His father was an inventor who designed fireworks and clothespins, and Mr. Van Doren learned valuable business lessons working alongside him.
He wrote that he dropped out of high school at 16 and for a time made a living at the horse track and in pool halls, work his mother could not abide. She helped him get a job at the Randolph Rubber Manufacturing Company, a Massachusetts concern that made canvas sneakers.
died in 2011 at 72.
His son Steve, daughter Cheryl and some of his grandchildren continue to work for the company he built.
Mr. Van Doren spent more than 15 years at Randolph Rubber. In 1964 he moved to Southern California to run a factory for Randolph there but left two years later to start Vans, having had disagreements with Randolph management.
He retired in the early 1980s, and his brother James took control of the company. James Van Doren tried to compete with companies like Nike and Adidas by expanding into different sports — running, basketball, wrestling and break dancing among them — only to bankrupt the company by 1984, Mr. Van Doren wrote.
Mr. Van Doren returned to lead Vans back to solvency. He refocused the company on its core offerings, and in a few years Vans paid back about $12 million in debt, he wrote.
mound wearing a pair of Sk8-Hi shoes customized with spikes, Mr. Van Doren wrote.
“The company doesn’t pay people to do these things; they happen organically,” he added. “Our customers, famous or not, just like the shoes.”
Oregon has lifted its mask mandate for people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, but is requiring businesses, workplaces and houses of worship to verify the vaccination status of individuals before they enter buildings without a mask.
This statewide mandate, one of the first of its kind in the country, raised concerns that the procedure of verifying vaccinations could be too cumbersome for workers.
Many states have lifted mask requirements without requiring confirmation that individuals have been vaccinated. New York lifted its mask mandate on Tuesday for vaccinated people, though businesses will be allowed to enforce stricter rules. Some Republican governors, like Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, have instead not only lifted mask rules but banned local governments from enforcing their own. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, also a Republican, issued an executive order last month prohibiting businesses from requiring vaccine documentation.
The notion of relying on the honor system, which some states and businesses have adopted, has raised its own questions. And business groups in Oregon expressed concerns that a mandate to check vaccination status could become — like mask enforcement — a difficult and potentially dangerous proposition for workers.
“We have serious concerns about the practicality of requiring business owners and workers to be the enforcer,” said Nathaniel Brown, a spokesman for Oregon Business and Industry, which represents companies like Nike, as well as small businesses. “We are hearing from retailers and small businesses who are concerned about putting their frontline workers in a potentially untenable position when dealing with customers.”
The Oregon Health Authority said in new guidance on Tuesday that effective immediately, businesses would be required to continue to enforce mask requirements unless they had established a policy to confirm proof of vaccination using a card or photo of one before individuals can enter the building without a mask.
Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said last week that Oregonians who were fully vaccinated no longer needed to wear masks in most public settings, except in places like schools, public transit and health care settings.
But she quickly noted that businesses would have “the option” of lifting mask requirements only if they instituted verification procedures. “Some businesses may prefer to simply continue operating under the current guidance for now rather than worrying about vaccination status, and that’s fine,” she said.
A spokesman for Fred Meyer, a grocery store chain in the Pacific Northwest owned by Kroger, said that it would continue to require customers and employees to wear masks in its stores.
New York has created the Excelsior Pass, a digital proof of Covid-19 vaccination, which will be used at some sites like Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall. Jen Psaki, President Biden’s press secretary, reiterated on Monday that the federal government would not be issuing “vaccine passports,” the development of which she said should be left up to the private sector.
Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Gov. Brown, said that “businesses that do not want to implement vaccine verification can keep current health and safety measures in place, which includes masks and physical distancing for all individuals.”
Asked if businesses would face penalties for allowing customers to go maskless without checking their vaccination status, Mr. Boyle said that “in the past year state agencies have issued fines for businesses that are out of compliance with health and safety guidance.”
LOS ANGELES — In today’s world of celebrity branding, captions speak louder than words. But Naomi Osaka’s are decidedly understated.
“Keep on keeping on,” the 23-year-old tennis champion posted on Instagram under two on-court photos after making it through the fourth round of the Australian Open (which she went on to win).
For a slide show that began with a shot of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose Costume Institute Gala she will co-chair, in September: “oh we lit.”
Below a portrait of herself draped in Louis Vuitton and Nike (both sponsors of hers), simply: “yo.”
Her nonchalance, perhaps, is a way of guarding herself on social media, where many more loquacious celebrities have made unforced errors.
business is boomin’. Ms. Osaka is covering everything from ears to rears, making headphones with Beats, athleisure with Nike and denim with Levi’s. Dresses? She designed them with Adeam, a Japanese-American brand. Swimwear? She crafted a collection with Frankies Bikinis.
In April, she announced that she would serve as C.E.O. of her own company: Kinlò, a line of skin care made for people with melanated skin tones, produced with GoDaddy. According to Forbes, she made $37.4 million in endorsements and tournament prizes between May 2019 and May 2020, the most a female athlete has ever earned in a single year.
pain medication, watches (which Ms. Osaka also does, for Tag Heuer) and the ever-changing category of fast food. On a Monday in March, Ms. Osaka found herself in the Los Angeles test kitchen of the chain restaurant Sweetgreen, the Supreme of salad, trying to wrap her head around the notion that one of the restaurant’s dressings — rémoulade — would soon be disappearing from the menu.
“What’s in it that makes it seasonal?” Ms. Osaka said.
“The pickles,” said Katelyn Shannon, a research and development chef of Sweetgreen.
blog post Women Laughing Alone With Salad went viral. Most of those women were white; perhaps none of them compelled anyone to eat a salad (unironically, anyway).
“Representation is important,” said Ms. Osaka, who is Haitian and Japanese. (Part of the proceeds of a salad she designed for Sweetgreen — with baby spinach and tortilla chips, among other ingredients — will go toward nonprofits working to increase food access in Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.)
this was a turning point: taking a stance increased her brand value. She shortly thereafter teamed up with Basic Space, an online swap meet for hype beasts (sample items for sale include a St. John coat and a Range Rover) to sell 500 masks designed by her 25-year-old sister, Mari. They sold out in 30 minutes, with proceeds going to UNICEF.
The Unsuspecting Player,” reaching $150,000. It is a Mangaesque imagining of a brown-skinned woman with a tennis racket and a cascade of pink hair not unlike a wig Ms. Osaka wore in a recent Instagram post.
“I’ve always felt like my sister knows me best,” Naomi Osaka said during an April interview on Clubhouse, the audio broadcasting app. “I’ve grown up watching her draw and do digital art and paintings, I always wanted to find a way to use my platform to showcase that.”
“Though maybe not exactly how I am,” she added, “she captured me well.”
It was Ms. Osaka’s first time on Clubhouse, and she did not hide her bemusement when the volume of Mari’s audio dwarfed her own. “I’m literally right next to my sister, so I don’t get why I have a bad connection and she doesn’t,” she said.
Many of her brand partnerships involve Mari. They collaborate on sketches for clothing Ms. Osaka designs with her fashion sponsors, like an upcoming capsule collection with Levi’s. “I draw really badly, she can make it look good,” Ms. Osaka said. “She’s able to interpret. Sometimes we don’t even have to talk for her to understand what I’m thinking.”
Before the pandemic, Ms. Osaka visited the Levi’s workshop in West Hollywood to conceptualize the pieces, which include an obi-inspired bustier and denim shorts with crystal fringe. When in-person meeting became impossible, she went on Zoom, signing off on 10 designs before they went into production.
“As a little kid, I would watch ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and ‘Project Runway,’ and those were sort of scratching the surface of what goes on behind the scenes,” she said. At Levi’s, she said, she could see the process, “how technical they are about buttons and cutting fabric.”
Far from the celebrity sponsorship model of yore, in which stars of syndicated TV shows claim to color their own hair at home, Ms. Osaka does not want to work with a company unless she’s learning on the job.
As companies scurry to make up for decades of underrepresentation of races other than white, Ms. Osaka is aware that she may seem like the golden ticket.
“I don’t just want to be a figurehead, or someone used,” she said. “If I’m with a brand, I want it to be from my heart instead of just trying to promote a message, just for money.”
Surely, some thirsty brands have offered some pretty sweet deals?
Ms. Osaka laughed. “That’s really a him question,” she said, gesturing at Stuart Duguid, her agent and manager.
“She’s not taking incoming calls,” he said.
Back in the test kitchen, Ms. Osaka had cast herself, convincingly, as student in salad master class, asking about the pros and cons of various greens, what ingredients go together, watching and learning as Mr. Ru, the Sweetgreen co-founder, demonstrated the proper way to mix with tongs “You’ve got to do the twist,” he said, flipping his wrist.
Upstairs, in a makeshift conference room, she photographed a mood board taped to a concrete wall. She gazed at the unfinished ceiling and a rattling screen window. “Really pretty architecture,” she said, sincerely. . Many celebrities are more keen on checking their texts than looking around the room. That’s not Ms. Osaka, or her brand.
“I’m very curious about a lot of things,” she said. “Being curious is one of the happinesses of life, because if you’re not curious, that means you’re sort of settled. I feel really humbled, that I play tennis but I’m able to have all these new experiences and opportunities, like getting to make a salad here. I don’t think a lot of people can say that.”
“I’m really good at tennis,” she added, “but I’d like to be really good at other things, too.”
But in recent years, that compact has begun to fracture. Democrats, pushed by progressive activists, have shifted further to the left on a wide range of economic policy issues. Under Mr. Trump, Republicans became more hostile to free trade and immigration. After the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, some prominent companies and business groups announced they would cut off donations to Republicans who had joined an effort to challenge in Congress the results of Mr. Trump’s November loss to Mr. Biden, prompting some Republican lawmakers to swear off corporate donations.
Many top executives feel they have little choice. They are being pressured by customers and increasingly by young, progressive employees to speak out publicly on major issues. And in the era of social media, companies can get into just as much trouble by staying silent as by weighing in.
Polling data shows the squeeze. A Gallup poll conducted in January, in the days leading up to and immediately following the Capitol riot, found that just 31 percent of Republicans were satisfied with the “size and influence of major corporations.” That was down from 57 percent a year earlier.
And in a survey conducted last month for The New York Times by the online research platform SurveyMonkey, 81 percent of Republicans who knew enough to form an opinion said it was inappropriate for business leaders to speak out against the Georgia law. And 78 percent of Republicans said large corporations had too much influence over American life in general. (The survey was conducted before two coalitions of business leaders released letters calling for expanded voting rights in Texas.)
Elena Adams, a survey respondent in Northern California, said she began to feel that corporate America was shifting against her a few years ago, when Nike embraced Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who drew widespread attention for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence.
“Basically I think we’re celebrating people who are not for the United States and pushing the agenda that we should be ashamed if we’re not people of color,” she said. “This whole narrative of the race thing, it’s reverse racism, is what’s happening.”
Today in Business
Ms. Adams, 66, said she had stopped flying Delta and buying Coca-Cola products. Since Major League Baseball relocated the All-Star Game from Atlanta over the Georgia voting law, she has quit following the Oakland Athletics. She has abandoned social media, believing that companies such as Facebook and Twitter are unfair to conservatives, and told the purchasing managers at the emergency response business where she is a partner to avoid buying from companies that espouse liberal positions, although she said it was too difficult to avoid companies like Amazon and Google altogether.
U.S.-China tensions, human rights and business are once again meeting uncomfortably on the basketball court.
In China, local brands are prospering from a consumer backlash against Nike, H&M and other foreign brands over their refusal to use Chinese cotton made by forced labor. Chinese brands have publicly embraced the cotton from the Xinjiang region, leading to big sales to patriotic shoppers and praise from the Beijing-controlled media.
In the United States, two of those same Chinese brands, Li-Ning and Anta, adorn the feet of N.B.A. players — and those players are being rewarded handsomely for it. Two players reached endorsement deals with Anta in February. Another signed on this week. Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors already had a shoe deal with Anta that has been widely reported to be valued at up to $80 million.
Dwyane Wade, the three-time N.B.A. champion and retired Miami Heat player, has a clothing line with Li-Ning that is so successful he has recruited young players for the brand.
online, however.) Still, their full-throated support of Xinjiang could have reputational consequences for the American athletes.
once said he wanted to be the Michael Jordan of Anta. His teammate James Wiseman, as well as Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers, signed with Anta earlier this year, according to the sportswear brand’s social media account. Precious Achiuwa of the Heat announced this week that he was joining Anta.
Requests for comment from Mr. Thompson and other N.B.A. players also went unanswered.
Outside China, Xinjiang has become synonymous with repression. Reports suggest as many as one million Uyghurs and other largely Muslim ethnic minorities have been held in detention camps. In March, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken accused China of continuing to “commit genocide and crimes against humanity” in the far northwestern region.
voiced his support for the Hong Kong protests on Twitter in 2019, Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center paused their partnerships with the team. The Chinese Basketball Association, whose president is the former Rockets player Yao Ming, also suspended its cooperation with the Rockets.
quickly denied. But the incident left a scar on the N.B.A.’s reputation for supporting free speech and severely limited its access to the Chinese market.
China Central Television, the state-run television network, stopped broadcasting N.B.A. games after Mr. Morey’s message on Twitter. Late last year, it briefly resumed coverage for Games 5 and 6 of the N.B.A. finals. A week later, Mr. Morey stepped down as general manager.
In a radio interview this week, Mr. Silver said that CCTV had stopped airing N.B.A. games again, but that fans could stream them through Tencent, the Chinese internet conglomerate. He said that the N.B.A.’s partnership with China was “complicated,” but that “doesn’t mean we don’t speak up about what we see are, you know, things in China that are inconsistent with our values.”
A spokesman for the league declined to comment for this article.
Money and a large China fan base are at stake for players like Mr. Thompson and the dozens of other American athletes who have been heavily promoted by Anta and Li-Ning. Mr. Thompson has had a partnership with Anta since 2014 that has given him a popular shoe line and sponsored tours in China.
More recent deals between the companies and N.B.A. players could face questions in coming weeks as tensions between the United States and China escalate. Jimmy Butler, a five-time all-star who plays for the Heat, and the Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet signed on with Li-Ning in November. Mr. Wade, the retired Heat player, helped CJ McCollum and D’Angelo Russell, two star guards, secure deals with Li-Ning through his sportswear line.
“My decision 7 years ago to sign with Li-Ning was to show the next generation that it’s not just one way of doing things,” Mr. Wade wrote on Twitter when he announced Mr. Russell’s contract in November 2019. “I had a chance to build a Global platform that gives future athletes a canvas to create and be expressive.”
Sopan Deb contributed reporting from New York, and Cao Li from Hong Kong.
A Brooklyn company that was sued by Nike over the unauthorized sale of Satan Shoes — an aftermarket sneaker that contains a drop of blood and was promoted by the rapper Lil Nas X — agreed on Thursday to accept returns of the footwear as part of a settlement.
The company, MSCHF, will offer refunds to people who want to return the sneakers under the terms of the settlement, according to Nike, which said in a statement that the purpose of the “voluntary recall” was to remove the shoes from circulation.
The settlement came a week after a U.S. District Court judge in Brooklyn granted Nike a temporary restraining order against MSCHF (pronounced mischief) after it sued the company last month.
A total of 666 pairs of the Satan Shoes were produced by MSCHF, which incorporated drops of its employees’ blood and ink into an air bubble in the Nike Air Max 97 sneakers. Each pair cost $1,018. They sold out in less than a minute last month.
“Luke 10:18” — a reference to the biblical passage that says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” — is printed on them.
A previous line of unauthorized Nike sneakers that MSCHF sold, which was named the Jesus Shoe and contained holy water, can also be returned for a refund, Nike said.
“In both cases, MSCHF altered these shoes without Nike’s authorization,” Nike said in a statement on Thursday. “Nike had nothing to do with the Satan Shoes or the Jesus Shoes.”
A lawyer for MSCHF did not dispute that the company had agreed to the voluntary buyback, but said on Thursday that he could not disclose the terms of the settlement.
music video for his song “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” in which he gyrates on Satan’s lap.
In the song, Lil Nas X, who was born Montero Lamar Hill, “cheerfully rejoices in lust as a gay man,” wrote Jon Pareles, the chief music critic for The New York Times.
Lil Nas X came out in 2019. The song’s title is an apparent reference to “Call Me by Your Name,” a novel about a clandestine summer romance between two men that was adapted into a film.
Mr. Bernstein said all but one pair of the Satan Shoes had been shipped to buyers before the temporary restraining order had been issued on April 1.
He described the sneakers, which are individually numbered, as works of art that represent the ideals of equality and inclusion. Mr. Bernstein said MSCHF had looked forward to arguing that its activities were covered under the First Amendment right of artistic expression.
“However, having already achieved its artistic purpose, MSCHF recognized that settlement was the best way to allow it to put this lawsuit behind it so that it could dedicate its time to new artistic and expressive projects,” he said.
Nike said it would not be responsible for any issues with sneakers that people decide to keep.
“Purchasers who choose not to return their shoes and later encounter a product issue, defect, or health concern should contact MSCHF, not Nike,” the company said.