Joe Hebert didn’t waste any time. On back-to-back days after his mom resigned from her VP and GM role at Nike, he was first in line at one of its stores in Oregon, ready to buy coveted sneakers along with his reseller crew, Input has learned.
Just days prior, on March 1, Nike announced Ann Hebert was leaving the company following a story that exposed ties to her son’s sneaker reselling business — one that, according to Joe, was generating as much as $600,000 in a single month. The brand said Hebert disclosed her relationship to West Coast Streetwear (AKA, WCS LLC) in 2018, though it found “no conflicts of interest.”
Inside Nike, however, sources tell Input employees are outraged by the company’s “lack of transparency” and “accountability,” its efforts to downplay the seriousness of the situation, and what they deem was special treatment for Hebert — who, instead of being fired, they say, was “ushered out” without facing any real consequences.
Based on internal Nike documents reviewed by Input, as well as information from sources familiar with the matter who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from Nike, over the past few years Joe Hebert was reported several times to the company for abusing its family discount codes at stores across Portland and Eugene, both in Oregon. However, sources said, Nike never followed up to look into his behavior and whether he was benefitting from his mom’s employment to buy sneakers at reduced prices and then sell them at a markup.
Since 2018, the year Joe Hebert’s West Coast Streetwear became an official business, sources say he was reported on more than one occasion to Nike’s Loss Prevention team, which handles internal matters such as employees (or their family members) abusing benefits like discounts at retail stores. But, sources said that given Joe’s connection to Ann Hebert — then a high-up at Nike — employees knew their efforts to stop him from buying shoes to resell were “just going to fall on deaf ears.” And while sources say he wasn’t going into Nike stores and buying shoes in bulk, as his pictures on Instagram show, Hebert was using his family discount for non-personal reasons enough that it raised red flags at Nike stores in Portland and Eugene.
Sources at Nike said what’s been most frustrating for employees both at the corporate and store levels is that, despite the company saying Ann Hebert disclosed her links to WCS LLC in 2018 and it found no issue, other staffers at a lower level are held to a different kind of standard — where having ties to reselling could lead to someone losing their job or, at the very least, an HR violation. The fear from employees of even being accused of abusing their discount benefits runs so deep, sources said, that many won’t let close family members use it to buy shoes or clothes that they just want to wear themselves.
“There's nothing to make me believe that if it were below the VP level, or if she was a person of color, that she would have gotten the same latitude,” one source said about the way Nike handled Ann Hebert’s exit, which allowed her to resign from her position as its VP and GM of North America. (The company has since named her replacement, Sarah Mensah.) Nike did not respond to Input’s request for comment on this story before publishing, but we’ll add any updates if it responds to our questions — including if it was aware that Joe Hebert had been reported for misusing his mom’s benefits at the brand.
The source pointed to Nike’s treatment and prosecution of other former employees like Errol Andam, a designer accused of defrauding the company of $1.4 million while running a dubious marketing scheme, and Kyle Yamaguchi, who stole over 630 limited-edition sneakers from the brand and sold them to collectors for as much as $20,000 per pair. Although Hebert’s situation is different, since she didn’t do anything illegal, the perception among employees is that Nike should’ve made an example out of her. Instead, sources said, the company chose to “turn a blind eye” and pretend like what Hebert and her son were doing was fine until West Coast Streetwear’s business came under the spotlight.
“There’s no common sense in here,” said a source who has been at Nike for over 10 years. “For [Nike] to not put any type of parameters on her [Hebert] or just check in with her, is just wild,” noting that the company should’ve been proactive about keeping tabs on the growth of Joe Hebert’s sneaker reselling operation. “It’s very clear, both overtly and covertly, that kind of thing [reselling] ain’t it. And so for her to be given a free pass, when the vast majority of employees wouldn’t want to be caught in that situation, it’s a different set of rules.”
A similar sentiment of double standards at Nike is echoed by former employees who say they know people who have been fired for less than what Ann Hebert was involved in. “It was understood, for sure, that you or your family can't profit off the company,” a source told Input earlier this month. “I want to barf. It's so insulting,” another source said. “Ann managed the largest geography at the company. She absolutely would have to toe the line on everyone not doing this [reselling]."
“There's nothing to make me believe that if it were below the VP level, or if she was a person of color, that she would have gotten the same latitude.”
So far, Nike’s argument for not taking action against Ann Hebert is that she disclosed her (seemingly) indirect connection to West Coast Streetwear when it was first started. "There was no violation of company policy, privileged information or conflicts of interest, nor is there any commercial affiliation between WCS LLC and Nike, including the direct buying or selling of Nike products," a Nike spokesperson said in a statement. Still, while she may not have been using a Nike corporate card to fund her son Joe’s business, her name was the main one on the credit line for West Coast Streetwear — a fact sources say they were “shocked” to find out Nike didn’t have a problem with.
At the same time, sources said, Nike employees are also concerned with how the brand appears to be trying to “sweep this under the rug,” rather than be transparent about how, exactly, it investigated Ann Hebert and came to the conclusion she didn’t violate its code of ethics. “It’s just straight-up greed and privilege,” a source said, adding that the “blatant privilege and hypocrisy” of how Nike handled Ann Hebert’s situation is “bullshit.” A major reason for the outrage, sources said, is that by allowing her to resign, Hebert likely received a huge exit payout and the ability to keep lifetime Nike benefits — including family discounts.
Per a recent report from Complex, Nike CEO John Donahoe along with President of Consumer and Marketplace Heidi O’Neill recently addressed Hebert’s reselling scandal during a staff meeting, acknowledging that the brand’s reputation has taken a hit as a result of it. “There’s no value more core to who we are than the trust our consumers put into us and our brand and our products,” said Donahoe. “And the fact of the matter is, this incident has sparked questions in some of our consumers about whether they can trust us, particularly around launch product.”
“Our internal review of the relationship between Ann and her son’s reseller business confirmed that she had not explicitly violated company policies,” O’Neill said, according to Complex. “Ann should have continued to share updates, including informing me, as her new manager, and unfortunately she did not.” The problem with that, sources said, is that Nike seems to be “passing the buck” instead of holding itself accountable for not being more proactive about regularly checking up on the status of Hebert and her son’s West Coast Streetwear business.
“When we saw that, we went, ‘Holy smokes, are you kidding me? Holy cow, how does he get away with this?’”
A source said O’Neill shifting all the blame toward Hebert was a tell-tale sign that nothing inside the company will change after this, and that the company isn’t taking the situation as seriously as it should be. “That was the moment I was like, ‘this is dead,’” the source said. “This is not going to go anywhere.”
“To be clear, we believe that Ann demonstrated poor judgment. However, we made the decision to not take corrective action against Ann,” O’Neill said during the internal meeting. “That decision was based on the information that we had at the time of the review. Following media reports, we had a more complete understanding than what we did when the review was conducted a few months ago and, together with Ann, we decided that it was best for her to resign.”
Another aspect of the Hebert-WSC LLC reselling scandal that baffles current employees is that Joe’s abuse of his family ties to a Nike VP was a “well-known” secret among brand staffers in Portland, Eugene, and Beaverton stores. There, Hebert would often camp out to buy sneakers to resell, accompanied by other people who were “outsourced” by him and would help him pick up as many pairs as the stores’ policy would allow on any given product launch day. And even if Joe Hebert was acquiring most of his Nike shoes on his own using bots and other “connections” in the sneaker industry that weren’t his mom, as he told Bloomberg Businessweek, sources said both the brand and Ann should’ve exercised better judgment — especially given Hebert’s role at the company.
“It became salt in the wound when we saw the YouTube video,” said a source about a video in which Joe Hebert gives a tour of his warehouse in Eugene, Oregon, that was filled with Nike sneakers ready to be sold in the resale market. “When we saw that, we went, ‘Holy smokes, are you kidding me? Holy cow, how does he get away with this?’ It was a well-known secret, but I don’t know where the secret was.” Ann and Joe Hebert did not reply to Input’s request for comment.
“Everyone is pissed. Every color. Every brand level.”
Of course, what happened with WCS LLC isn’t the only sneaker (and family) reselling controversy Nike has been involved with lately. Back in February, the company faced backlash as it botched the launch of its Air Jordan 1 x Trophy Room "Freeze Out" sneaker, which was plagued by pictures of resellers going viral on Instagram and Twitter as they stockpiled dozens of pairs of the shoe before its official drop date. That was magnified by the fact Trophy Room is a boutique owned by Michal Jordan’s son, Marcus, who was accused of “backdooring” — AKA selling early pairs to friends and family, before regular consumers even had a chance to purchase for their original retail price and not thousands of dollars.
“I don’t think much of anything will change,” said a source. “I hope, if anything comes of this, that senior leaders reconnect to employees, buy into rebuilding the culture we used to have, [and] actually act like leaders rather than entitled assholes.” What’s more, sources said, Nike executives and other higher-ups need to understand that employees at a store level are dealing with backlash directly from consumers. “It's been hell, because of the ripple effect,” a source told Input, sayin they’re aware of “nasty people” going into Nike stores accusing employees of “backdooring” and “propping up a trust fund baby.”
“There’s a very big difference between going into an investigation looking to prove that no wrongdoing took place, like ‘Oh, everything is fine,’” a source said, “versus going in with a critical eye and saying, ‘Hm, doesn’t feel fine. Let me make sure.’” The source added, “And so, okay, [Nike] did an ‘investigation,’ but it wasn’t done independently, wasn’t done by an outside source. It was done by people whose paycheck says ‘Nike.’ So what upside is there for those HR or fraud investigators to say, ‘Yeah, [this person] is doing shady shit and there should be repercussions.”
Sources say the lack of transparency from Nike comes from a company culture that promotes silence so as to “not rock the boat,” which they state is a big reason why employees aren’t willing to do the “right thing” and point out when people like Ann Hebert or Michael Jordan’s son may be doing something wrong. “Nike uses the language around ‘team’ all the time. On the Jordan side, it’s all about ‘family,’” a source said. “Well, just by using that nomenclature, you keep shit in the locker room. You keep shit in the family. Why would I position myself to be a black sheep?”
The hope for employees now, sources told Input, is that Nike will learn from this lesson and be more transparent with both its employees and consumers, as well as start holding everyone at the brand to the same ethical standards — regardless of their position. “It’s not just about the [conflicts of interest] policy. It’s about accountability,” said a source, who has also been at Nike more than a decade. Another employee added, “Everyone is pissed. Every color. Every brand level.”