Nike is a famous household name, a company notoriously known for being the world’s largest sneaker and sportswear distributor. Their product ranges from the casual Superfly shoes, to the radical neon-colored running shoes, collectible basketball Air Jordans and everything in between. The name Nike comes from the name for the Greek goddess of victory. In 1971 Nike paid just $35 to the graphic designer who created the iconic “shwoosh” logo.
More recently, Nike has launched a program geared specifically to the Native American and Aboriginal communities in North America. The program, Nike N7, is geared to encourage Native communities to get more active by way of competing in sports. Though most of the efforts are directed toward Native youth, N7’s mission also has inspired hundred of adults to lead a healthier lifestyle. As it states on their website, “Through activity, competition and play you can unleash the power of your generation. You can grow up active and healthy. Sport gives you self-confidence, enabling you to be a force for positive change in your community. When one generation realizes its potential, future generations are much stronger for it.”
The message is motivational for Native communities in our current generation. With nearly every nation facing health issues such as diabetes and obesity, programs like Nike N7 can be the foundation for a new, healthier beginning.
Diabetes in particular has taken a toll on health in Native communities nationwide. When left untreated, diabetes leads to serious health risks such as heart disease (heart attack and stroke), eye complications, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot wounds, skin diseases and dental problems.
In an interview with Sam McCracken, General Manager and the visionary behind N7, he said, “The investment needs to be in our kids. My goal is to get 2 million youth active by way of sport. I feel you can learn a lot with sports, how to be a team member [and] build your self esteem, and it gives you confidence. You learn these characteristics while being active and eating better. Confidence can go a long way.”
McCracken grew up in Montana on the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux reservation where he participated in a lot of rodeo events but also grew a passion for basketball. According to an interview by Terri Hansen, the Nike N7 journey is a personal one for McCracken who lost his mom to diabetes complications. He stood by her side until the very end, when he had to pull the plug himself.
In 1997 McCracken got his start at Nike, working in a warehouse. Shortly afterward he began his journey to revamping the company’s Native American Employee Network, which seeks to build awareness and educate employees about Native cultures. In 2000 he moved in business management at Nike.
There he worked with nearly 200 schools that had enrolled in the Office of Indian Education programs; he created Nike’s Native American Diabetes Program and formed an alliance with the National Indian Health Board on the company’s “Just Move It” program, which promotes physical fitness on reservations.
N7 & SRPMIC
The birth of N7 is just the beginning. “2013 is going to be a big year for us,” McCracken said. “We have the Sports Summit in April, and I’ll be back in July for the NABI (Native American Basketball Invitational).” In March, NABI will also have its Chasing the Sun 7K/5K Run and Health Fair in Phoenix.
In late December, Nike N7 sponsored Salt River High School’s varsity girl’s basketball team to compete in the annual Nike Interstate Shootout Tournament in Oregon. The Lady Eagles competed against teams from all over the nation; SRHS being the only Native school in the tournament and being the Nike N7 representative. Nike N7 generously paid for the girl’s tournament fees and lodging. In addition, each player received a free pair of N7 basketball shoes.
“It was great to have those young ladies here and experience the competition at this premier level,” said McCracken.
On January 12, Nike N7 Ambassador Jacoby Ellsbury held his second annual baseball camp for kids at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
I asked McCracken what it was about the Community that he enjoys working with. “It’s a partnership”, he said, “a dual role. I have my role in spreading the N7 mission and the Community leaders have their role to reach out and be engaged. The Community has embraced the N7 mission, and that’s why we are able to do things like the baseball camp. And you know Jacoby took time out of his own schedule to be with the kids. Investment needs to be in the kids, my goal is to get 2 million kids active by way of sport.”
Upon his arrival for the baseball camp McCracken took time out of his own schedule to visit the Lady Eagles at Salt River High School.
The entire N7 product line’s intent is to raise awareness for the N7 fund in all of the communities it works with. To see the current collection and past collections visit www.niken7.com. Keep a close eye out in April, when Nike N7 will debut their new collection just in time for the grand opening at the Chandler Nike Factory store.