THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Nike's Phil Knight Is No Revolutionary

The October 19th edition of Forbes Magazine announced the Forbes 400 Revolutionaries, men and women whom Forbes considers "captains of capitalism (who) built a product, created a market or satisfied a need that touches us all."

Topping this list is Nike founder and chairman, Phil Knight. Forbes noted that the 71-year-old Knight has created the largest sportswear company in the world with $19.2 billion in sales last year and that Knight has a personal net worth of $9.5 billion-- $6 billion of which is in Nike stock.

What Forbes neglected to mention is that Mr. Knight's wealth has been amassed on the backs of mostly young women in Asia who, despite producing his products for 20 years, still live in abject poverty.

If we use the lens of history as our guide, Phil Knight is doing nothing new. To make himself really rich, he is exploiting the poverty, lack of education, and desperation of marginalized people. What exactly is "revolutionary" about taking advantage of the poor for selfish financial gain? Before Mr. Knight, this path was well-paved by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the robber barons of industrial Europe, and the slave masters of the American south.

Rather than praise Mr. Knight's unjust actions, people of good will should challenge him. An excellent place to start would be with the words of the Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah.

"Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper room by injustice; who makes neighbor serve him for nothing, and does not give him his wages... you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence." (Jeremiah 22)

If Mr. Knight were to act justly in light of this prophetic warning, that would warrant his being called a revolutionary.