“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” reads the new Nike campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, which debuted Labor Day.
And, indeed, Kaepernick has sacrificed. At the start of 2016 National Football League preseason, he sat during the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When asked why, he responded it was a silent protest against police brutality. By the end of the preseason, Kaepernick had opted to instead kneel as a show of respect after a conversation with Nate Boyer, former NFL player and veteran. Since the end of that season, Kaepernick has remained an unsigned free agent, leading to allegations of collusion and blackballing. His grievance continues, as a request to dismiss the case has been denied.
All the while, Kaepernick has continued his activism, donating $1 million to charities. (He has been on Nike's payroll since 2011.) In an awkward turn, Nike signed a 10-year extension of their apparel deal with the NFL in March.
The reaction to the new Nike campaign was instantaneous, and often unintentionally hilarious.
The sight of adults performatively videotaping themselves destroying their own property instead of donating it is comedy gold.
Others publicly defaced their clothing, but still plan on wearing it later.
That'll show 'em!
There have always been plenty of good reasons to boycott Nike, including the company's use of child labor, sweatshops, and offshore tax shelters. (Although, good luck finding another mainstream athletic shoe company completely innocent on these counts.) This was all apparently fine with these people, but this move was a bridge too far.
“The Fraternal Order of Police has been called upon to boycott Nike for capitalizing on this former professional football player because he attracts controversy,” read a Sept. 4 statement from Chuck Canterbury, FOP president. “In our experience, boycotts and similar exercises do not succeed and often serve only to enrich the company—which is not what we want to do. Our members and, for that matter, any American citizen understands when the law enforcement profession is being insulted—we have no doubt they will make their purchases with that insult in mind.”
Michael McHale, president of the National Association of Police Organizations, called upon members to boycott Nike outright.
In a Sept. 5 memo to his Parks and Recreation Department director, a Louisiana mayor, followed suit.
“Under no circumstances will any Nike product or any product with the Nike logo be purchased for use or delivery at any City of Kenner Recreation Facility,” he wrote.
The College of the Ozarks announced they would replace all Nike student-athlete uniforms.
The Texas Farm Bureau informed employees they were no longer allowed to wear Nike apparel on the job.
Despite all this, Nike's stock rose about 4 percent this month, closing Friday at an all-time high of $83.49. Sales jumped 31 percent on Labor Day weekend, nearly double that of a year prior.
I applaud Nike's forward-thinking decision. Future generations will learn about Kaepernick the same way I did Muhammed Ali, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos.
Will I make my next pair of shoes Nikes? I might just do it.