Just when we begin to fear that sport is in danger of being
taken over by the forces of evil, from out of nowhere comes an
athlete to inspire and uplift us all. His name is Casey Martin.
Until recently I knew only part of Martin's extraordinary story.
He was local, fighting great odds in trying to make it to the
PGA Tour by competing on the Nike tour, which we sponsor. But
because he was local, many Oregonians--including attorney John
Jaqua, who has been on our board since our annual sales were
less than $1 million--encouraged me to take a closer look.
Oh, my goodness, what I saw was what the world sees now: a young
man of enormous courage and determination who just wants a
chance. Plus he has a Stanford background and a home in Nike's
spiritual birthplace, Eugene. So we became partners, and that
very week he won the year's first Nike tour event. How's that
for good management?
It hasn't occurred to me that Casey Martin will lose his lawsuit
with the PGA Tour. I'm actually more concerned--this will shock
some--about the Tour, which has so earnestly forgotten what
matters most. The Tour could have made a great statement about
inclusiveness. It could have blasted a huge hole in the elitist
boundaries that Tiger Woods began to break through in 1997.
Instead it chose to oppose Martin.
The Tour is run ably by a good man, Tim Finchem--a sharp
contrast to that cold NBA litigator, David Stern. But Stern
would never have let this issue come to a lawsuit. He would have
embraced Martin, the kid who didn't know he wasn't supposed to
play on the Tour, the kid whose love of golf kept him walking.
Finchem sincerely believes his sport will be harmed by an
exception to the walking rule. Most of the golf establishment
agrees. As a relative newcomer to golf, Nike doesn't want a
fight with the establishment, but we won't run from a fight,
Phil Knight is founder and chairman of Nike, Inc.
COLOR PHOTO: ALAN LEVENSON/TIME JUST DO IT Knight's not afraid to buck the Tour. [Phil Knight]