A co-founder and current chairman emeritus of the athletic apparel enterprise Nike has apparently just switched teams. He has now donated $1 million to the Republican candidate in the Oregon gubernatorial race less than a month before Election Day and just about a month after donating millions of dollars to one of her opponents.
Phil Knight, who helped initiate the company that would become Nike and who is now the richest man in the state of Oregon as a result, made the sizable contribution to Christine Drazan, a Republican who has surged in the polls lately, even though Oregon has not elected a Republican governor in more than 40 years. Right now, polls show Drazan running neck-and-neck with Democratic opponent Tina Kotek, and in some cases, Drazan is even a point or two ahead.
Another candidate who remains in the race but who lags far behind both Drazan and Kotek is Betsy Johnson, who served in the state legislature from 2001 until last year. Knight had made several donations to Johnson's campaign throughout 2022, totaling about $3.5 million. His most recent contribution came on September 1, when he dropped a whopping $2 million into Johnson's coffers.
However, all of that money has not kept Johnson competitive. Johnson, who served in the legislature as a Democrat but who has run as an unaffiliated independent in the gubernatorial race, still trails far behind her competitors in established parties. While a recent poll from the Oregonian/OregonLive has Drazan and Kotek at 32% and 31% respectively, Johnson runs a distant third at just 18%.
Knight's decision to switch from Johnson to Drazan almost certainly raised some eyebrows, but some may be even more surprised to see Knight deviate from the woke, leftist politics that Nike has been supporting for years. The company famously hired former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who made a name for himself as a political activist when he began kneeling during the national anthem, to become the face of Nike. Nike then paid Kaepernick millions of dollars to appear in ads with the message "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
In other words, as Ian Miller of OutKick wrote, "Nike has generally moved in lockstep with the tide of left wing Current Thingism politics." But now Knight has stepped outside of that woke company ethos and financially supported a Republican who favored opening schools during the government shut down, defended law enforcement at the height of the "Defund the Police" movement, and who now wants to address the homeless crisis that has lately plagued Oregon streets.
Knight has not publicly explained his decision, but with his donation, Drazan now has more money remaining than either Kotek or Johnson, with $3.5 million. Though Johnson raised the most this election cycle, with $16.4 million, she now has just $1.8 million. Kotek still has $2.3 million of the $14.9 million she raised.
And at least one major commentator, OutKick founder Clay Travis, believes Drazan might just pull off the upset in November.
"Crime is so out of control in Oregon that Nike founder Phil Knight has donated a million dollars to @ChristineDrazan who is seeking to become the first Republican governor in Oregon since the 1980’s," Travis tweeted on Sunday. "I think she’s going to win. Great candidate."