Featured in the our June 2018 PRIDE month issue!
When you think of major companies today that are actively working to change our sports culture that’s been ingrained not only by homophobia but also biphobia, transphobia racism and sexism, NIKE is one of the biggest advocates. Through their corporate diversity programs and employee passion projects the company is promoting much needed change by both word and example.
And when you mention NIKE and the LGBTQ sports community, the first person who automatically comes to mind for the untold numbers of LGBTQ athletes, coaches, educators, organizations and media who have spent valuable time at the NIKE Campus at one of the company’s LGBTQ Sports Summits is Robert Goman. We were happy to talk with Robert and learn more about him and his role at NIKE and their BETRUE campaign.
Compete: Thanks so much for taking time to talk with us, Robert. Since you work for a company geared to sports and competition, were you an athlete growing up? If that’s the case, how did you first get involved in sports and what did you play?
Robert Goman: I was part of a summer swim team as a kid and then in junior and senior high school I was involved in Cross Country and Track & Field. I also tried freshman Basketball in high school until I realized I wasn’t coordinated enough for the game.
C: What do you consider your greatest athletic achievement then?
RG: Well, in high school I received the “Coaches Award” in Track & Field. Interestingly, this achievement made me realize the importance of being a team player. Individual contribution to a team is one thing but being seen as a strong supportive team player for the overall team is something I value today in my everyday work and life.
C: Please tell us about your work at NIKE. For those of us who have been involved with NIKE and its popular BETRUE project, you tend to be the face of it. Is it your fulltime job at NIKE?
RG: My fulltime job at NIKE is Senior Director of Global Product Presentation for NIKE Direct Brand Marketing. BETRUE is a passion project that gives me the opportunity to bring the voice of the LGBTQ sports community and athletes into the corporate conversation of brand building and social marketing.
C: What is the process you go through to produce your annual BETRUE campaign?
RG: Each BETRUE season begins with a story or an insight about the ever-evolving LGBTQ community and the world of sports. We spend a great amount of time in the details. It isn’t about slapping a rainbow onto product and pushing it into the market. It is thoughtful and connected.
As an example, the colors used in the 2018 product connect back from an historical standpoint when the color lavender was used as a subtle way to identify to others and how the pink triangle became an important LGBTQ symbol. There is power in storytelling and the history of our LGBTQ community – these details influence our work and vision for BETRUE.
C: Tell us something about you, Robert. What meaningful interactions have you had with the NIKE LGBTQ sports community?
RG: BETRUE has provided many meaningful interactions and conversations with LGBTQ NIKE athletes. Each of these moments has been meaningful as each story has its own personal narrative. Everyone has his or her own journey, experiences and influences. Each one of these moments is full of personal struggle, personal growth and personal investments in the future of LGBTQ athletes and sports.
C: What do you consider your greatest personal achievement, Robert? And as a role model for the LGBTQ community, what insights would you share with your younger self?
RG: Being part of the BETRUE LGBTQ leadership at NIKE and seeing what a shared vision and passion can create to move the sports world forward is my greatest achievement personally. LOL – I don’t consider myself a “role model.” If I could go back and tell my younger self anything it would be simple: “respect the past – know the history and story. Listen to those who have paved the path that you are walking on and continue to pave that path for the future “you” because you’re going to LOVE who you become.”
C: What are your future goals for the BETRUE campaign?
RG: To continue to leverage the power of sport, mentorship and equality for LGBTQ athletes to be their true and authentic selves on and off the field of play.
C: Thanks so much for sharing your time and wisdom with us (after all, many of us think of you as a role model).
By Brian Patrick