Phil Knight Says He's 'More Conservative Than Nike,' All in to End Democrats' 35-Year Reign in Oregon


Few companies have a slogan that so neatly sums up the corporate ethos as Nike’s:

“Just Do It.”

It’s not just a command to set your alarm for 5 a.m., put on your running shoes and pound out 10k without whining like a baby about it. It’s also a summation of the company’s liberal culture.

The Oregon-based sporting giant essentially grew in tandem with the do-whatever cultural relativism of the 1970s, both commercially and culturally. That thinking has persisted unto the present day, to the point where one of the brand’s top endorsers is Colin Kaepernick, a has-been former NFL quarterback and leftist martyr who isn’t exactly bringing athletic bona fides to the table — at least, not anymore.

So, what if I told you that the fortune built by Nike over the past half-century could end up electing the first Republican governor that Oregon’s had since Democrat Neil Goldschmidt was inaugurated in January 1987?

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Phil Knight, who co-founded the company, has thrown over $4 million into the Beaver State’s hotly contested gubernatorial race. All of it has gone against the Democratic nominee, Tina Kotek, a former Oregon state House speaker.

The reason? Oregon’s Democrats have gone too far to the left, Knight told The New York Times.

“One of the political cartoons after our legislative session had a person snorting cocaine out of a mountain of white,” Knight said.

“It said, ‘Which of these is illegal in Oregon?’ And the answer was the plastic straw.”

Oregon decriminalized possession of hard drugs in a 2020 referendum designed to get drug users into treatment. As National Review’s Nate Hochman noted in a Sept. 25 column, while fewer than than 1 percent of users who accessed state services entered treatment, fatal overdoses are up 41 percent since the referendum passed.

Kotek backed the measure and has “routinely defended” it since, Hochman wrote Oct. 16 in the conservative outlet City Journal.

In addition, Kotek was the chief sponsor of a law that restricted what city authorities could do to take homeless people from their streets, according to Portland-based alternative outlet Willamette Week, essentially giving transients the right to set up camp in public wherever they pleased. In Portland, that combination helped lead to a record murder rate in 2021, according to The Associated Press.

Knight, now 84, told the Times that he hasn’t gone conservative, he’s just “an anti-Tina person.” Lots of Oregon voters are, too — particularly since the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Kate Brown, is the most unpopular governor in the nation, according to the Times.

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That’s why the money the Nike billionaire is pouring into the race isn’t just part of a quixotic effort to make what should be a blowout victory for a Democrat in a deep-blue state a little bit closer. In fact, by polling estimates, she’s losing to Republican candidate Christine Drazan.

According to the stats geeks at FiveThirtyEight, Drazan currently has 37.4 percent of the votes in the polling average, compared with Kotek at 34.3. Independent candidate Betsy Johnson, an ex-Democrat running as a centrist, has 16.4 percent of the vote.

Knight initially threw his weight behind Johnson, dropping $3.75 million in the former helicopter pilot’s coffers.

Do you think GOP candidate Christine Drazan will be Oregon's next governor?

“But as polls showed Ms. Johnson lagging well behind Ms. Kotek and Ms. Drazan, Mr. Knight, frustrated with what he described as a lurch too far to the left in the state’s government, switched his loyalty this month, sending $1 million to Ms. Drazan,” the Times reported.

Of course, the Times is aghast at the prospect that Drazan might win, focusing on the fact she is “an anti-abortion Republican.” The only way this makes a difference in Democrat-controlled Oregon, however, is that Drazan might attempt to halt efforts to turn Oregon into an abortion vacation destination.

Earlier this year, fearing Roe v. Wade would be overturned, the state allocated money so women could travel to the state to terminate pregnancies they couldn’t abort in their own state. Drazan, not unreasonably, has labeled Oregon’s approach “outside the mainstream,” according to the Times.

Knight, asked whether his endorsement of a pro-life candidate ran counter to his company’s values, told the Times he is “more conservative” than his brand.

“Nike has good leadership,” Knight said. “They make choices, whatever they want, but I think I’m more conservative than Nike.”

There are a whole host of other issues, mind you.

Oregon was one of the last states to lift its mask mandate, only doing so earlier this year. Kotek and other Oregon House Democrats, at the behest of teachers’ unions, repeatedly blocked efforts by GOP representatives to open the state’s shuttered schools, according to a column Hochman wrote on National Review in a Sept. 23 piece.

That decision proved disastrous. The Portland-based Oregonian reported last month that “Oregon students’ reading, writing and math skills plummeted due to pandemic-induced disruptions to schooling, and students who were already trailing far behind grade level experienced the most harm, somber Oregon Department of Education officials announced.”

This is where Oregon’s liberal streak of “just doing it” has brought the state. Just do drugs. Just tolerate homelessness and crime. Just follow Fauci. Just pay to let women in other states have abortions there.

Apparently, even Phil Knight thinks Oregon Democrats have just done it wrong. Let’s hope the rest of the state concurs — and votes accordingly.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture