A Shoe Startup is Looking to Ease Tensions in America

Politics |

A former Nike employee has embarked on an entrepreneurial enterprise aimed at uniting the nation. After 15 years at Nike, John Tawney launched Common Ground, a Portland-based company catering toward young Americans who are finding themselves on different sides of the political divide.

Tawney told Fast Company "In the current political climate, I'm more committed to our mission than ever." The brand's website elucidates this idea even further. They list various shoes and clothing apparel options intended to promote elements of progressive politics, including gender equality, gun violence, immigration, marriage equality, and progress.

Common Ground wants customers to find common ground through three stages: Commitment, Consideration, and Connectivity. They want people to be "willing to suspend judgment," and "let progress be more important than winning." Tawney asks his customers to question of others, "how would they want to be treated?"


It's somewhat of a ballsy move to make a company's entire platform based on social and political leanings. But if Tawney is able to effectively communicate a non-partisan take on things, it may work out for the better. He's already gaining heaps of press coverage for this uncharacteristic take, which will benefit his brand in the short-term, but is it a sustainable position?

The only time politics gets messy for an employer is when they make hiring and firing decisions because of it. In other words, terminating employees over who they supported in an election is not just an unethical business practice, but it forces shareholders to see that the company no longer respects meritocracy.

We've already seen this action take place for food delivery service GrubHub. It's founder and CEO sent out a scathing email a couple days after the election condemning any employees who voted for Donald Trump, urging them to "hand in their resignation." After a couple days of seeing his stock price plummet, the CEO had to backtrack on that statement, saying he wasn't literally implying that Trump voters should quit. He claimed that his only goal was to discourage what he perceived to be hatred.

Common Ground seems to be considerably less divisive than GrubHub, as it's imploring people to be open-minded and not come to quick political decisions.

This is a message that many Americans are wishing was more widely practiced. The loudest political outcries from either side seem to be from a fairly small but vocalized faction. Hopefully, companies like this can help bridge the ever growing divide we're feeling in this nation.