- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2000

Marion Jones is Nike's latest prop to pretend to have a social conscience.

In the ubiquitous ad, Jones raises the issue of pay equity in sports, wondering why women are not paid as well as men. Women play just as hard as men. They practice and sweat just as hard as men. But they are not paid as well as men, not even close.

The implication, of course, is that America remains a hopelessly sexist society and that men, from sea to shining sea, conspire in a zillion ways to keep women in the kitchen or in the maternity ward.

Men, you see, don't feel good about themselves unless they keep at least one woman down a day, and it is only through the courageous work of Nike and Jones that this awfulness is being exposed.

Nike and Jones deserve an award for their politically inspiring message. Bronzed elephant dung comes to mind.

America only can hope that Jones doesn't strain a back muscle from lugging around what appears to be a heavy cross.

Nike knows how the free-market system works, and given the shoe giant's embarrassing record with Third World laborers, it should be the last company to raise the issue of pay equity.

Nike is in the business of selling shoes, and that is about as complex as it gets, whether the mouthpiece is Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley or Tiger Woods. It is all about the Benjamins with Nike, as well it should be, and the politically correct tripe in this case is dishonest.

Women athletes are not compensated as well as men for an obvious reason. Women don't generate anywhere near the amount of revenue that men generate.

That is not real hard to comprehend, except perhaps to Nike and Jones.

If equal work merited equal pay, print journalists across America would be the first in line to address this social wrong. Journalists at small newspapers would be clamoring to be paid as well as their counterparts at big-city newspapers. They would have a pretty good argument, according to Nike and Jones.

Otherwise, America is a fairly flexible country. You don't have to peck on a keyboard for a living. You don't have to pick up basketball, either. You can pursue a job in a higher-paying field. You have options. It is a free country.

Jones is not really being noble. She plans to be somebody at the Sydney Games and is merely tapping into the marketing avenues available to her.

She is being paid by Nike to speak this socialistic tripe, and if she really believed it, she would be giving a fair share of her earnings to the runners who train just as hard as she does.

They may not be as fast and gifted as she is, but merit is not the point of the Nike commercial. If merit were the point, Nike and Jones would not have evoked the comparison to men.

The best women in the WNBA can't compete with the worst men in college basketball, much less anyone from the NBA. Yet there is a shot of Chamique Holdsclaw in the ad as Jones is rallying the troops.

Jones, by the way, is a wonderful athlete, arguably the best female athlete in America. She hopes to end the argument in Sydney. And good for her.

If the Olympic competition goes as well as Jones hopes, she undoubtedly will be the good capitalist and make the appointed rounds. You could expect to see her on talk shows, a cereal box, a bad sitcom or two and perhaps eventually in the WNBA.

That, too, is how the marketplace works, and Jones would be foolish not to meet the demand.

It is not about equal pay for equal work. It is about demand. It is about what the public is willing to pay for a particular service or product. The Boy Owner is betting the public will pay $10 to watch large men stretch their muscles this summer.

Nike is betting Jones will be able to move shoes in a cost-effective manner after she completes her work in Sydney.

There is nothing wrong with that. Peddle those shoes while exploiting, by U.S. standards, the yellow man in Asia. Make your Benjamins. Enjoy yourself.

But please, Nike and Jones, spare everyone your insulting, deceitful social activism.

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