Nike employees staged a demonstration Monday as the company reopened a building named for disgraced running coach Alberto Salazar – who was accused of fat-shaming former runner Mary Cain and was banned from the sport for four years over doping offenses.
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About 400 employees, mainly women, staged the protest against the company’s treatment of women, according to the Willamette Week. Some of the protesters were holding signs saying “We Believe Mary,” The Oregonian reported.
Several senior Nike officials joined the protesting employees and engaged in a dialogue with them, those familiar with the event told The Wall Street Journal. A flier was reportedly circulated before the protest asking employees to raise awareness of how Nike can better support female athletes and employees.
“We respect and welcome employees’ feedback on matters that are important to them,” a Nike spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. “The flier prepared by some employees was not officially distributed by Nike.”
Salazar has come under fire over recent months. He received the four-year ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Association “for orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct while acting, respectively, as head coach of the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) and as a paid consultant for the NOP on performance enhancement and as physician for numerous athletes in the NOP.” Salazar has said he planned to appeal the ruling.
He also came under fire after Cain published a New York Times’ op-ed, accusing the Nike Oregon Project and Salazar of forcing her to meet unrealistic weight goals. Salazar refuted allegations that he pushed female athletes to maintain unhealthy weight goals. The Nike Oregon Project is now defunct.
Cain tweeted photos from the protest.
Nike has stood by Salazar through the turmoil. Outgoing Nike CEO Mark Parker sent an email to employees on Oct. 1, saying the company wouldn’t condone cheating but couldn’t find whether Salazar broke rules, according to the Journal.
“As for Alberto, it’s clearly a difficult time for him, his family and his athletes,” the email reportedly read. “I think it’s important that you know we looked into these allegations and did not find that he violated any rules.”