For nearly two months, unsettling news has trickled out of the Beaverton campus of sportswear giant Nike, as a series of top executives announced their departures in the midst of a widening sexual harassment scandal.
This weekend, The New York Times connected the dots. In an extensive story appearing on the front page of the Sunday edition, The Times details how women employees surveyed their colleagues about experiencing sexual harassment and gender discrimination—then sent the packet of anonymous, completed questionnaires to the desk of Nike CEO Mark Parker.
The Times story opens with a sampling of what was in that packet:
There were the staff outings that started at restaurants and ended at strip clubs. A supervisor who bragged about the condoms he carried in his backpack. A boss who tried to forcibly kiss a female subordinate, and another who referenced a staff member’s breasts in an email to her.
The allegations detailed by The Times are drearily familiar examples of toxic workplace behavior. And it's not unusual for a coterie of ill-behaved executives to be treated with kid gloves when their colleagues complain to human resources.
Instead, what stands out about what happened inside Nike is that the women who were dismissed and demeaned launched a successful campaign to hold their bosses accountable. It is the latest example of a workplace reckoning led by women as the #MeToo movement confronts powerful and abusive men.
But the story also makes clear the degree to which Nike operates in Beaverton with great secrecy and failed to hold senior managers accountable.
Most of the people who spoke to The Times insisted on anonymity, citing nondisclosure agreements or a fear of being ostracized in the industry, or in the Portland community, where Nike wields outsize influence. Some have spouses or family members still working there. In response to questions, Nike portrayed its problems as being confined to “an insular group of high-level managers” who “protected each other and looked the other way.” “That is not something we are going to tolerate,” said a spokesman, KeJuan Wilkins.