• William Cuberos

Taking a Stand: How Colin Kaepernick, Nike, and the NFL Are Turning the Tide On Social Injustice

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

Martin Luther King Jr

After 30 years of Nike telling us “Just do it,” it was their time and they just did it. Nike announced Monday that Colin Kaepernick, along with Serena William, Odell Beckham Jr. and Shaquem Griffin, would be the face of their new ad campaign. While Nike has a legacy of fun entertaining commercials like Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon or the Fun Police, they’ve never shied away from controversy, such as Charles Barkley’s “I’m not a role model” commercial.

Nike originally signed Kaepernick as an endorsement athlete in 2011 and extended the deal with the new ad campaign. Though Kap remains unsigned, his profile has not faded in his time outside of the league. In 2017, his 49ers jersey was the 39th-best-selling jersey and he was the only player not currently in the league to break the top 50. Along with being the face of the new campaign there was also speculation that Kaepernick will be receiving a shoe and clothing line as part of the endorsement deal.

The announcement was met with the expected outrage from those that didn’t support the player’s peaceful protests and support from those that did. Criticism ranged from angry tweets by everyday citizens and the president, to people posting videos of themselves burning their Nike merchandise and posting it on Facebook in hopes of garnering “likes” and disregarding the fact that they already paid for the shoes and aren’t actually hurting Nike’s bottom line at all. Some even went so far as taking the slogan in Kap’s picture, “Believe in something / Even if it means sacrificing everything,” and Photoshopping it on pictures of former NFL safety and U.S Army Ranger Pat Tillman and other members of the US military. This shows once again that the protests are falling on deaf ears and that critics are happy to apply their own motivations for players taking a knee during the national anthem instead of confronting the uncomfortable truth that the protests are motivated by racial and social inequality in this country.

On the other hand, support came from former players, activists, and even veterans, who took to Twitter and other forms of social media to commend Nike for taking such a bold stand knowing that they would face significant backlash for doing so.

Obviously, Nike did their market research and were willing to absorb whatever negative coverage and potential loss of sales they faced, but they should still be given enormous credit to take a stand on a subject that is hotly debated but really shouldn’t be. The fact that we’re still having to debate racial inequality in 2018 is depressing, the fact that some people are so unwilling to talk about is infuriating. As Beto O’Rourke said so eloquently last month, “It makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue.”

But for the life of me, I don’t understand how you can come down on the other side of this issue if you’re paying attention. This isn’t about the military, it’s never been about the military or veterans, and if that’s what you take from it, then with all due respect; that’s on you. If you’ve paid attention to what Kaepernick and others have said but you still point to military and scream “this is disrespectful to them,” then I don’t know what to tell you. This is about African-Americans being incarcerated at a higher rate than whites, and it’s about African-Americans being killed disproportionately by law enforcement. It’s about equal access to higher education, better jobs, and government assistance. It’s about Georgia last month trying to close seven of nine polling locations in a majority-black county.

This country is a lot of different things to a lot of different people: where we were born, grew up, found careers, fell in love, where our parents or grandparents immigrated to. But the true beauty of America is that it’s always changing, each new generation has its chance to put their own stamp on this great country and make it something new for them. There’s an old saying that “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Be that tide, make a difference, even if it’s only in one person’s life, because that’s what the protests are really about, a peaceful non-violent protest at its core is meant to be a silent form of inspiration.

You don’t like Kaepernick taking a knee? That’s fine; but give him a reason not to.

Just do it


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