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Friday, 5 May, 2000, 04:40 GMT 05:40 UK
Nike cuts university funding
Nike logo
Nike provides millions of dollars in sports sponsorship
By Rob Watson in Washington

The giant sportswear company Nike has confirmed it is cutting off millions of dollars in sponsorship money to three prominent American universities.

The universities say it is because of their support for workers' rights in Nike's factories worldwide, a claim Nike denies.

Nike has partnerships with an estimated 200 universities in the US.

It gives them millions of dollars in sponsorship in return for the positive publicity it gets from outfitting the colleges' often very popular sports teams.

Lucrative links threatened

That relationship, which has for so long been beneficial to company and colleges alike, is now in danger.

At the centre of the controversy is a student-led group called the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC).

It is trying to pressure universities to be more aggressive in monitoring conditions in overseas factories making clothing carrying their logos.

All three of the universities who have recently had their contracts with Nike terminated support the WRC.

'Safeguarding human rights'

One of them, the University of Michigan, accuses Nike of striking out at universities who are committed to safeguarding human rights.

Nike says it would be unfair to accuse the company of punishing the universities for their links to the consortium.

A spokesman for the company told the BBC Nike makes no secret of its dislike for the group, accusing it of trying to dictate terms to the clothing industry.

Nike has been widely attacked in the past for the conditions in its overseas factories, which some critics have described as sweat shops.

The company says it has made many positive changes in the last few months, including raising wages for its Indonesian workers by 70% and setting 18 as the minimum age limit for the workers in its footwear factories.

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21 Jan 99 | Asia-Pacific
Nike slams Vietnam labour critics
19 Oct 99 | Americas
Reebok criticises own factories
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