Recently, former San Francisco 49'ers QB Colin Kaepernick was rewarded by the Nike Corporation with an amazing opportunity to become the face of their 30th Anniversary Ad Campaign, "Just Do It." Kaepernick's inclusion in this campaign is Nike's BIG screw you to the NFL, to the 32 owners, to Donald Trump and all his detractors because of his courageous stand to take a knee during the National Anthem to protest the police brutality of black and brown people in this country. In fact, when Colin Kaepernick announced this campaign on his social media, the backlash he and the Nike Corporation received was tremendous. Those who vehemently disagreed not only with his involvement in this campaign, but his stance, decided to boycott Nike and some even burned their own tennis shoes as a show of disgust and anger at this widely controversial decision. As I peruse social media, the response to this decision was either utter disgust or effuse praise. There are really only two sides to this spectrum, either you hate or you love it. And, quite frankly, "I LOVE IT."
Who better represents the boldness this famous slogan represents "Just Do It" than Kaepernick? I can't think of a better sports figure that epitomizes the true spirit of activism and social justice than Kap, himself. His courage and relentless disposition towards his stance is reflected in the length of his protest, the consequences because of it, and the growing number of supporters as well as haters of it. Colin Kaepernick began his protest back in August of 2016 against the Green Bay Packers, where instead of kneeling; which he later chose to do by the admonishment of an military veteran, Kaepernick remained seated on the bench while his other teammates stood. This was around the same time that he was benched by new San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly in favor of Blaine Gabbert (who is that?) Exactly! My initial thoughts about Kaepernick's protest was more about him being benched, rather than the explanation he gave the next day, when asked by the media about why he was sitting during the National Anthem rather than standing, like everybody else? He said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder" I have sense changed my mind about the genuineness of his protest given the back lash he has received, the collusion he's experienced from his former employer-the NFL By virtue of what Kaepernick's has experienced; at least for me, has convinced me of the legitimacy of his protest. We talked about Colin Kaepernick's protest in one of our earlier Thinking Out Loud Radio Shows, called the "Mis-Education of Colin Kaepernick."
Since Colin begin his protest, a lot has transpired, the protest has gotten more attention from the news media, more dialogue and discussion, more athletes are given involved, more political rhetoric and debate, as well as more back lash and more criticism, But, in a way Colin's protest is forcing the country to deal with a problem that before this no one seemed to want to deal with. I remember watching like many of you, Eric Garner get choked on video by NYPD Polices Officers until he was no longer conscious and no longer alive. This unfolded right before our eyes. We also saw the footage of the Trayvon Martin being accosted by George Zimmerman; a neighbor watchmen, and Trayvon was shot and killed by Zimmerman who asserted that he was merely acting in self-defense. We remember the murders of black and brown people at the hands of the police and once these cases are tried in the court of law, the police officers are ultimately vindicated and the victims and their families are left broken and in despair. This is the unfortunate reality of police brutality that Kaepernick and athletes wanted to call more attention to, so that the men and women responsible for these murders would be held accountable. We all know the repercussions of these protests have led to the NFL to create a policy to penalized players for kneeling during the National Athem, which ultimately cost Kapernick his job in the NFL. What's interesting is that none of the owners will admit publicly that this is the reason that one of the top 25 QB's in the league is not on an active roster. And, as a way to mask Colin's oust was to say one thing in the media, but something completely different behind the closed doors of the NFL Franchise Boardrooms across the country. This caused Kaepernick to pursue a civil suit against the NFL and it's owners that they colluded against him to keep him from playing in their league. According to TMZ, "The NFL had filed legal docs alleging Kaepernick's legal argument -- that NFL owners conspired to keep him out of the league -- was baseless and without evidence. The arbitrator disagreed, concluding there was sufficient evidence present in the former QB's legal docs to allow his case to go forward." Needless to say, the NFL and it's owner will have in the words of Ricky Ricardo, "Some splaining" to do for colluding against Kaepernick to keep him from earning a living as a QB in the NFL.
So, the timing of this Nike ad; in my opinion, was perfect. The NFL season was getting ready to start back up, the league was in the process of rethinking their protest policy with the NFLPA, Trump and his cohorts continue the fuel the flames of the NFL Protesters by calling them "Sons of b_" and they either stand or be fired. What a blatant disregard for these players beliefs, values, not to mention their freedom of Speech; which by the way is their constitutional right. But, I get it Kaepernick's protest is forcing the nation to have a conversation about something that would much rather ignore. Ironically, thought it is a conversation that Nike CEO Phil Knight believes we would continue to have; even if it's according to the Undefeated's Jemele Hill only for dollars and cents, because as we know if it don't make dollars then it don't make sense. Jemele asserts in her article in the Undefeated entitled, Nike's Ad With Colin Kaepernick Isn't Risky At, It's Business.
"It would be naive to see Nike expanding its business relationship with Kaepernick as a symbol that it isn’t afraid of backlash or Donald Trump, and it believes in the fight against racial injustice. Nike signed Kaepernick for one simple reason: to make money... It’s always business. Never personal. The loud critics of Kaepernick, the few morons who burned their Nikes and cut the swoosh off their clothing just for 10 seconds of cheap fame, aren’t who Nike cares about. It cares about its core audience, the people who turned Nike into a powerful, cultural brand. They connect with Kaepernick. They love his style, his rebelliousness, outspokenness and authenticity. They like that he stands for something and that he’s willing to take on the NFL’s power structure. He moves culture forward in a way that is unprecedented."
So, in the mid of Phil Knight, this was a battle worth fighting for in every sense of the term. Although, I don't see it purely in that sense, because that would mean that all this was being done ONLY for a former QB and a Fortune 500 company to make some money. However, I believe it is much, much bigger than that . And, this why we such a concerted effort to halt and to stop players rights to protest, as Dr. King once said, "...for right." When we did it become illegal to criticize the government, when did it become illegal to criticize the president? Unfortunately, we are living in a day and time; due in large part to the ineptitude of the Trump administration, that we are under an adversarial regime or government. And, in some ways Nike has decided to stand with the millions of American's who believe it is still right to protest and kneel for what it is right. And, for those who think Nike is a johnny come lately in all of this, Not so! According to reports, Nike has been in business with Kaepernick since 2011, and has not discontinued their relationship because of what he is going through with the NFL and Trump. But, they see value in the cause and not just dollars and sense; I believe, but in a round about way this could be Nike's way of helping to fund the cause. They are in a sense rewarding Kaepernick's for his courage; rewarding Kaepernick for his bravery, for his social consciousness. So, Kaepernick can continue being the voice for those who don't have one, kneeling or those who can't stand for themselves, and for that I simply say, Congrats Kap!
What are your thoughts?