About that Strange Quote from Nike's CEO Mark Parker


In the Wednesday bullets, I linked to a China Daily article by Zhao Rui which included this bizarre quote attributed to Nike CEO Mark Parker (talking about LeBron James):

"I'm proud of watching him play. I'm mad about him," he said. "I think he is more than an individual. He has started a new craze across the world. I will support him like I'll cry for China at the Olympic Games."

Cry for China? What? Really?

Today I got an email from Dean Stoyer, director of US media relations for Nike, who denies that Parker spoke as reported:

Just caught up with your post regarding LBJ and Mark Parker's quote in the China Daily. Definitely was NOT Mark's quote regarding LeBron. I followed up with a colleague from Beijing who was there during the interview and while he did say that LeBron is a phenomenal talent and an impressive ambassador for the U.S. and for Nike, he did not say what the China Daily had him quoted as saying, nor am I sure how it could have been lost in translation.

Can't say I'm surprised in the slightest, seeing as nobody talks like that. Not that nobody says they'll cry for China. But the construct "I will support him like I'll cry for China at the Olympic Games" is so tortured that I'm skeptical it could represent anyone's actual thought process.

Is this the original version of the article, or was it written in Mandarin and translated back to English? I wonder.

When I was in China, a decade and a half ago, the state-controlled media regularly featured extraordinary pro-China hyperbole. Leading up to the Olympics, when we all will be relying on and consuming more and more Chinese media, I hope we can get to a point where we trust this kind of slip is an innocent clerical error, and not a nationalist attempt to hype up the Chinese Olympic team at the expense of accuracy.