A Revolutionary Ad: Is Nike right by endorsing Colin Kaepernick?


Tyra Hughes, Copy Editor

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Rebellion and conformity are the two driving forces of society that have the power to either transform or preserve the way in which we live. When we choose to rebel, consequences become inevitable, but also essential in order to cause a bring about change. In revolutionary movements, there will be people who disagree and act out of anger. But change never comes without a fight on both sides of an issue.

The one thing that brings America together, despite it’s deep history of racism and injustice, is sports. Which in the past, have acted as a platform for athletes to stand by a cause and remind the world of important issues of society. Fifty years ago during the 1968 Olympics, medal winning track and field olympians, Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood in protest of issues that America refused to address. These included: poverty, lynchings, and racism, all while the National Anthem played. With their black gloved fists high in the air, shoes off in protest of poverty, and their heads held down, they were screamed at by an angry audience, and later revoked of their track careers. Despite the backlash, their protest has gone on to be praised as one of the most important in sports history. Especially during a time in America when it faced a lifetime of racial and social turmoil. Now, yet another trailblazing former athlete has received praise for his own political protests against America and its National Anthem, and this time, it’s by Nike.

Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016 began kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of social injustice and since then, has not been signed to any NFL teams. However, he was featured in a Nike ad early this month. In the ad, which also featured numerous athletes, Kaepernick says his own personal motto: ¨Believe in something. Even it means sacrificing everything.¨

While the ad did receive a lot of positive feedback across multiple social media platforms and rose Nike sales by 30%, some people who have found offense to Kaepernick’s protests. The ad has been received by some by boycotting Nike and going as far as to burning their Nike products. As Mississippi governmental candidate (R), Tate Reeves put it, “By supporting the NFL protests, Nike is making it clear that they would rather stand with those who show contempt for our country over those who defend it.”

President Trump has also openly expressed his opinion on Kaepernick and his Nike ad in a tweet saying, ¨Just like NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!¨

The fact that political figures who work to represent America have defended America and its flag, despite all the injustice that the society has placed upon people of color, is incredibly disappointing. Police brutality and social inequality within America are two valid reasons for one to protest America. The flag and the national anthem, considering the promises of being the “land of the free and home of the brave” have been consistently broken with injustice peoples of color face.

On top of the reason why Kaepernick protested and why Nike created their new ad, what people like Reeves and Trump especially fail to understand is that Kaepernick was well aware of the consequences he would face for his protests. Nike, whose consumers are mostly millenials concerned about social issues, was also aware of the backlash that they would receive.

Often time, protesting has a lot less to do with the possible consequences, and a lot more to do with the positive change and outcomes that it can bring in the long run. With that being said, when Kaepernick chose to rebel, rather than conform to the things that have become a norm in today’s society, he didn’t stress about the consequences of the near future, but instead, thought ahead of what monumental change to society his rebellion could cause. In a 2016 interview, Kaepernick 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.”

Kaepernick used his profession as a platform that he knew would grab the attention of 246.4 million viewers every week to bring awareness to issues that would have been otherwise ignored in America. If anything, not getting signed by the NFL after his protests might have been a win for Kaepernick in tricking his ultra-nationalist critics that his fight for social and racial justice was over. Raging former Nike customers setting their Nike products aflame will not hinder the mountains that Kaepernick can move within our society.  

Maybe Republicans like Trump or others may not ever consider trying to understand why Kaepernick protested and why Nike chose him as the face of their ad, but allow me to remind you that.  Kaepernick and his protests have really resonated with the youth of today’s society. In an Instagram poll, I asked my followers if they respected Kaepernick, his protests and Nike for their new ad, and 27 out of the 28 that responded said that they did. As one student later commented, ¨Police brutality is a horrible injustice that primarily black people have to face at the hands of white cops, so it’s about time for someone of this power to stand up and do something.¨

Colin Kaepernick undoubtedly deserves all the support that he has received thus far from Nike and it’s target audience, because he spoke out and protested against symbols of America that have been for too long, outdated in its promise that all are created equal. He used the power he has in influencing the public as an athlete to bring awareness to issues that in America, still have yet to be resolved. In spite of the possible consequences of rebellion and protest, our society needs more people like Kapernick who are brave enough to put anything at stake for the sake of working toward a better America.