Nike Contends Rival Sparked Action By Push

CHICAGO - Nike Inc. has moved to sidestep Operation PUSH's demands for information about its business dealings, contending PUSH targeted the athletic-gear company after accepting contributions from Nike's biggest competitor, Reebok International.

In a sharply worded letter to the Rev. Tyrone Crider, national executive director of Operation PUSH, Nike President Richard Donahue contended that Nike ``was targeted for a pre-emptive strike'' after Operation PUSH received contributions and support from Reebok.

``The information you seek of Nike is highly proprietary,'' Donahue said in the letter. ``It would be more than useful to our competitors.''

A spokesman for Nike in Beaverton, Ore., said Reebok bought a full-page advertisement in the July issue of PUSH's magazine. Nike said the company learned of Reebok's support for PUSH through newspaper reports.

A spokeswoman for Reebok, the second-largest maker of athletic footwear after Nike, said ad constituted Reebok's only contribution to Operation PUSH. She didn't say how much the ad cost.

Other than the ad, ``we have no relationship at all with Operation PUSH,'' said Kate Burnham, a Reebok spokeswoman. ``We have a foundation which makes contributions to many organizations.''

Donahue asked PUSH to supply details in 21 categories relating to how the organization made its decision to single out the athletic-wear industry. It also seeks information on any contributions

from Reebok and on PUSH's overall funding, finances and membership.

Among the queries, Nike asks for a breakdown ``of the membership of PUSH by geographical location, age, sex and race.''

Also, Nike asks, ``Has PUSH been the subject of review or investigation by any federal or state agency? If so, state the name of the agency involved, the nature of the investigation and the findings or conclusions of the investigation.''

Nike also seeks documents justifying PUSH's tax-exempt status and material supporting PUSH's allegations against Nike.

Donahue met with Crider last week at Operation PUSH's request while company officials were in Chicago for a sporting-goods convention. Operation PUSH is demanding that athletic-wear makers show greater sensitivity to minority economic and workplace concerns and has hinted at a boycott should companies such as Nike fail to respond.

PUSH ``gave us a detailed questionnaire asking about our financing, purchasing and future investments,'' said Nike spokeswoman Liz Dolan. ``That's information we wouldn't even give to a stockholder.