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Nike’s Kaepernick Embrace Makes Matters Worse: CEO Daily

July 3, 2019, 10:08 AM UTC

Thanks for nothing, Nike.

I’ve been a fan of CEO activists who try to bring sense and pragmatism to divisive political debates. Climate change is real; the two sides in Charlottesville weren’t morally equivalent; smart gun control can reduce violence; controlled immigration can be good for the economy; etc.

But Nike’s embrace of Colin Kaepernick has always been different. It seemed an effort to divide, not unite. The company didn’t counter the prevailing political playbook; it adopted it, making an emotional appeal to its base. As a tactic for selling shoes, the campaign worked. But it did nothing to salve the nation’s wounds.

This week, Nike made matters worse, withdrawing a pair of shoes adorned with the Betsy Ross American flag, after Kaepernick complained. Some people were offended that the flag has at times been used by racist groups; others were equally offended that such a well-recognized symbol of the nation’s early years had been summarily banished.

The Fourth of July used to be a day that brought Americans together—for barbecues, parades, and fireworks. Not this year. The president has reframed the Washington celebration for his own brand of divisive politics, and Nike has followed suit. No surprise Gallup finds patriotism at an all-time low. It has become a wedge issue.

More news below. And a good economic report this morning from the Conference Board: consumer confidence remains at historic highs around the world. If a recession is coming, consumers don’t see it.

CEO Daily is off tomorrow and Friday for the holiday. See you on Monday.

Alan Murray

Top News

R.I.P. Lee Iacocca

One of the U.S.'s first celebrity CEOs, Chrysler savior Lee Iacocca, has passed away at the age of 94. Iacocca spent decades at Ford—he was pivotal in the development of the Mustang—before being fired by Henry Ford Jr. and being snapped up by Chrysler. As Chrysler CEO, he saved the company from bankruptcy by getting the Treasury Department to guarantee bank loans. Fortune

Tesla Records

Tesla set new production and delivery records in the second quarter of this year, beating analyst estimates (95,200 deliveries versus a prediction of 91,000) and boosting the company's stock by 7%. Looks like a rebound; now let's see what the second half of the year brings. Wall Street Journal

Fed Picks

President Trump is taking another shot at filling two seats on the Federal Reserve's board, following the self-defenestrations of Stephen Moore and Herman Cain. The new picks are Christopher Waller (the St. Louis Fed's EVP) and Trump economic adviser Judy Shelton, who—surprise!—likes the idea of 0% interest rates. CNBC

EU Top Jobs

European heads of government have proposed making German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Germany's least popular politician) the new European Commission president, and putting current IMF chief Christine Lagarde in charge of the European Central Bank. This is not yet a done deal—it needs confirmation from the European Parliament, where many lawmakers are furious about the way the arrangement has been stitched together. Financial Times

Around the Water Cooler

China Production

Nikkei reports that HP, Dell, Microsoft and Amazon are all planning to move significant amounts of their device production out of China. Sources told the news service that the outlook in China is still too uncertain despite the temporary ceasefire struck between Presidents Trump and Xi. Nikkei

Huawei Blacklisting

President Trump eased the Huawei blacklisting, right? Well, his administration is still telling Commerce Department staff that a "presumption of denial" policy applies when considering potential exports to the firm. Reuters

Glyphosate Ban

Austria has banned glyphosate, the key ingredient in Bayer/Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller. The Austrian parliament said it was banning the herbicide as a precautionary measure, despite its continued approval at the EU level. Other EU countries have also introduced or proposed some glyphosate restrictions, including France, Italy, the Netherlands and Czechia. Japan Times

Renewable Energy

American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) CEO Gregory Wetstone writes for Fortune that renewable energy is booming now, but growth rates past 2022 are less certain. He writes: "In order to stay on track, the renewable sector will need a modernized grid; electricity markets that fairly recognize the value of flexible, pollution-free renewable power; and a level playing field in the tax code." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.