illustration by jeff drew

Saved by the Swoosh

Eugene’s only independent weekly paper bailed out by Nike’s Phil Knight

Last year, when the former Eugene Weekly sold to a conservative media conglomerate and rebranded itself the Eugene Guillotine, liberals in this progressive college town were seized by outrage and despair. There was much howling and gnashing of teeth. Jesus wept.

The mission of the new ownership, Full-Media License (FML), was clear: The sad songs and waltzes of Social Justice Warriors just aren’t selling anymore, and it’s high time Eugene was relieved of left-learning fake news in favor of the hard truths of today.

As FML spokesman Chip Robertson said at the time of the sale: “We plan on working closely with local developers and certain flexible members of the political establishment to give a fair and accurate vision of reality,” which includes promoting the wisdom of big corporate tax breaks, selling off civic institutions to private enterprise and otherwise deregulating the so-called free market.

Democracy isn’t dead; it just goes to the highest bidder now.

But in a stunning move, the Eugene Guillotine yesterday was sold again, this time to Just Do It Media (Just DIM), a subsidiary of Chairman Phil Knight’s multinational Nike corporation. The reason for the sale, according to insiders, was purely economic. 

“Eugene is full of liberals,” said Just DIM’s press liaison Bill Shine, “and liberals weren’t buying what the Guillotine was selling. The paper was failing. This is more a re-branding than an ideological shift, per se.”

Shine pointed out a number of reasons Nike’s takeover of the press is a great idea. First, he said, Eugene loves “Uncle Phil” Knight, whose vast financial contributions have turned the University of Oregon into a veritable sports mecca despite the ongoing gutting of liberal arts departments.

“Recent college scandals have shown us that academics are a thing of the past,” Shine said. “What the people want are feel-good stories about student-athletes succeeding despite the odds, be those fraudulent rape charges or criminal prosecution for recruitment violations.”

Despite the fact that Knight is a regular contributor to right-wing, pro-corporate Republican candidates and that Nike itself has received criticism for its practices of using sweatshop labor in countries such as Vietnam and Honduras, Shine points out that the company’s image remains oddly untarnished in “lefty” Eugene.

“As the recent Colin Kaepernick ad campaign for Nike readily proved,” Shine says, “liberals are pretty gullible. Flash them an ad of a black athlete utterly shut down by the NFL for protesting police violence against blacks, and they forget all about the fact that Nike stands for everything they claim to hate. It’s beautiful.”

In fact, Shine says, the re-branding team considered naming the paper the Eugene Gullible, but that seemed a bit too much. They’ve decided to go with the more triumphant and recognizable name of the Eugene Swoosh, a reference to the ubiquitous symbol that emblazons Nike products.

“It’s a match made in heaven,” Shine says of the polygamous marriage of Knight, Nike and local media. “I mean, it’s all been heading in this direction for decades, and this just kind of puts an official stamp on the whole thing. It’s a win-win,” he added, noting that everything distasteful about neoliberal policies — deregulation, privatization, corporate subsidies, rampant consumerism and the dismantling of civic institutions — is made palatable with the proper progressive spin.

Local real estate magnate and developer Brian Obie, for his part, was thrilled by the promises of the Eugene Swoosh

“It’s about time,” said Obie, whose Fifth Street Public Market project just got underway with a ten-year tax waiver. “I’ve been listening to all this caterwauling about tax breaks and the homeless for years, but we’ve got several international track competitions coming to town, and it’s time we got busy. Track Town U.S.A.! The Swoosh is going to clean this town up!”

Shine said readers of Eugene Swoosh can expect strong coverage of such track meets, along with endless profiles of any black student athletes who don’t refuse to stand for the National Anthem. And the paper will continue to shine a light on longstanding Eugene institutions, such as the Cuthbert Amphitheater and Market of Choice.

When questioned about the apparent incompatibility of a progressive, independent weekly newspaper being owned by a multinational corporation whose interest seem contrary to its interest, Shine was sanguine.

“Identity politics covers a multitude of sins,” he said. “My new motto is: ‘Don’t worry about it, buddy. It’s Niketown.’” 

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