New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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3 NYU students allegedly assaulted during rally at D.C. Nike store

The students claimed they were harassed by Nike employees and customers during a protest over the company’s ties to NYU and other academic institutions.
A+group+of+protestors+stand+outside+of+Nike+Unite+holding+signs+which+say+%E2%80%9CNike+Steals.+Pay+your+workers%2C%E2%80%9D+%E2%80%9CN.Y.U.+is+complicit%2C%E2%80%9D+among+others.
Demonstrators gathered on Feb. 3 in Washington, D.C. to demand universities cut their apparel contracts with Nike. (Courtesy of Pay Your Workers UCB)

Three NYU students were allegedly harassed by customers and employees at a Nike location in Washington, D.C. during a rally on Feb. 3. At the demonstration, around 25 students from six universities, including NYU, gathered inside the store to demand that their respective institutions cut ties with Nike after the company was accused of not paying employees at a factory in Thailand.

Hazel Walrod, an NYU sophomore who attended the demonstration, told WSN that customers and workers at the Nike store “violently” ripped signs out of protesters’ hands, which she said caused a student from another university to bleed. Walrod also said she was pushed by an employee as she was being escorted out of the store. 

“This is what solidarity means — putting your body on the line for the cause and for the other people and showing support,” Walrod said. “I’m just getting a taste of the violence that garment workers have to endure to organize.”

Demonstrators began calling for their universities to cut their apparel contracts with Nike after the company was accused of not paying employees at a factory in Bangkok following its closure in 2020 due to the pandemic. Thai law permits withholding pay to temporarily suspended workers, but after the factory — called Hong Seng Knitting — closed, workers said they were not compensated.

In October 2023, a group of students, including Walrod, rallied outside the NYU Bookstore and called for the university to end its relationship with Nike. The company supplies the bookstore with branded merchandise. 

While the protesters were chanting, sophomore Brandon Wu attempted to deliver a letter to the manager of the store, which called on Nike to “take action to compensate workers for the value of their stolen wages.” Wu, who also attended the October rally, said the letter was intended to prompt the store manager to call Nike headquarters. The store manager refused to accept the letter from the group, according to Wu.  

“Someone drew blood,” Wu said. “I’m not sure if this matter is fully settled in the sense of whether they are going to pursue legal action of any kind, but there’s video evidence floating around.”

Walrod said that Nike management called the Metropolitan Police Department to the scene and closed the store. The group relocated outside the store and continued to chant. The MPD declined to comment on the incident. 

Managers at the factory and Nike have denied allegations of wage theft, although some workers have alleged that Nike would fire employees or report migrant textile workers to Thai immigration services. The Workers’ Rights Consortium, a labor rights monitor conducting the investigation at the factory, found that workers lost over $800,000 in wages during the factory’s closure. 

In a written statement, NYU spokesperson Joseph Tirella said the university is “in frequent contact with the WRC,” which NYU is a part of. He also said the university is aware of the group’s findings and will “continue to work on discerning the most impactful course of action.” 

“Nike is just very scared, and our university is very scared of us holding them accountable,” Walrod said to WSN. “NYU is complicit in this act of violence in this store.”

The Nike store did not respond to a phone call, and Tirella said the university had not heard of the alleged incident until a WSN inquiry.

Contact Maisie Zipfel at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Maisie Zipfel, Deputy News Editor
Maisie Zipfel is a first-year double majoring in Journalism and Politics, and double minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies and Spanish. She is a Yerba Mate enthusiast, a Taylor Swift fanatic and an anti-Greek Life turned sorority girl (Deeph or Die). When she’s not writing in the WSN basement you can find her isolated in Palladium for NYU’s Competitive Dance Team practice, obsessing over her Four-Year Plan or trying to weave in time to take a nap. You can reach her on instagram @maisiezipfel, on LinkedIn (her favorite social media platform) @MaeZipfel or preferably on Venmo @mkzipfel.
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