Colin Kaepernick, "Just Do It", and Boycotts
The last time Colin Kaepernick suited up to play in an NFL game was on January 1, 2017. That was 611 days ago, and since that date he has not had a workout with a single NFL team, no contract offers, and all of it under the guise that he is simply not good enough to be an NFL quarterback. After nearly 610 days of unemployment, during which Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL for colluding to keep him out of the league due to his peaceful protests during the national anthem, Nike released an ad that has set the internet ablaze.
The purpose of the ad was to announce that Colin Kaepernick is going to be the face of the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign. The ad was released on Labor Day, which certainly does not seem like it’s just a coincidence, and just last week arbiter Stephen B. Burbank denied the NFL’s request to dismiss Kaepernick’s grievance, sending it to open court. This means that there is enough evidence to warrant the case going to an open hearing.
Now, while Burbank’s decision to send the case to open hearing is certainly newsworthy, the response to Kaepernick Nike ad is a whole different kind of newsworthy. The response has been mixed, from high praise of Nike and Kaepernick to outrage and vitriol towards the two.
The outrage stems from Colin’s protest, when he decided that he was not going to stand while the National Anthem was played prior to NFL games. He did so in protest of police brutality, and he did so in protest of the numerous deaths of unarmed African-Americans, some of which came at the hands of law enforcement. Many felt that this action was disrespectful to the flag, the military, and the country as a whole, even the President of the United States has spoken about it.
While the outrage seemed pretty partisan prior to the President turning the protest into a political tool, it seemingly became 100% partisan following that action. Kaepernick’s message became diluted, and the arguments that ensued about the protests were about the anthem and respect of the military, not the actual message.
Now, I won’t write a whole history for the protest, many other writers have done just that. If you are still unfamiliar with the perversion of the initial protest, I recommend you watch this clip from First Things First on Fox Sports 1, where Nick Wright delivers a very passionate response to President Trump calling NFL players “sons of bitches.”
What I am here to talk about is the absurd reactions to the advertisement itself. If you’ve been reading my writing for a while or listened to my podcast, you know that I don’t understand burning a players jersey. Well, the same thing applies here, because the response the Nike’s ad and announcement have been equally absurd.
Last summer, following the now-infamous Kyrie Irving trade, I wrote that the practice of burning players jerseys is a dumb one. Yes, it may make you feel better about a player leaving your team, but it doesn’t change the fact that you paid money to buy the jersey in the first place, which the company that made the jersey already has, and the player already got his royalty from.
Now that Nike has re-partnered with Colin Kaepernick on a new deal after his original deal from 2011 ended, people have taken the practice of burning jerseys to a whole new level. That new level isn’t just an amplification of the products burned and destroyed, it’s an amplification of the idiocy that surrounds the concept.
Once the ad was released, people flocked to twitter and social media, using “#BoycottNike” in their tweets voicing their displeasure with the company’s endorsement of the now-polarizing figure. People have posted photos and videos of themselves burning and cutting up their Nike apparel, and I assume the reasoning behind this is that it will give the company the idea that you no longer will be using their products and many others will do the same.
The problem with that school of thought is that it doesn’t actually make sense. For every person who burns their shoes, cuts the iconic swoosh off their socks or shorts, or tweets #BoycottNike, there is at least one more person who is being driven to the company due to their endorsement.
Colin Kaepernick, who hasn’t played an NFL game in 611 days, had the 39th-highest selling jersey in the NFL last season. That’s right, a player who isn’t even on the roster had a top selling jersey. People clearly are behind him and his message, and Nike understands that.
Nike already has your money, let’s remember that. When you burn a jersey, a shirt, a shoe, or a sock, what you are left with is a pile of ash, not a pile of cash. When you cut the logo off of your shirt, socks, shorts, or sweatshirts, you are left with clothes that make you look homeless, not currency that can be redeemed for something else.
You could argue that Nike is taking a calculated risk in making Kaepernick the face of their campaign, but the truth is that there is not a major risk involved. Nike is getting on the right side of history, and they will be proven right. Nike and the NFL just agreed to a 10-year extension on their partnership earlier this year, and now Nike is backing the man causing them more headache than perhaps any other player in history. Nike is built on this exact thing, their biggest brand, the Jordan Brand, was banned by the NBA and the company paid MJ’s fines so he could keep wearing the iconic sneaker. They could care less about outrage.
Now I own two different pairs of Jordan 1’s, and there are now 32 different Jordan sneakers, in hundreds of colors and styles. That should show you plenty of how this situation could play out.
Colin Kaepernick has widespread support, and while it may not sit well with you that you misconstrued his message and delivery method for that message and made it about the national anthem, he still has his supporters, and they are getting louder.
If you truly are so upset about the renewed partnership between Colin and Nike, you can boycott them, by all means. Just know that it won’t change their practices, much like how other companies are still thriving despite these boycotts. Amazon, Starbucks, Keurig, Target, Nordstrom, and the NFL are still doing just fine.
If you take your sports apparel to another brand and think the message will be different, you are in for quite a surprise. You want some Under Armour now? Their face is Stephen Curry, who has been very outspoken against the President, and even got “uninvited” to the White House. Adidas? They have rappers on their payroll who also support Kaepernick’s message. Puma? They made Jay-Z a brand ambassador, and he also supports Kaepernick.
I mean, Kanye West is partnered with Adidas, so if you want to pair your MAGA hat with some yeezys, be my guest. Fair warning though, you are going to look just as ridiculous doing that as you would wearing a Nike t-shirt with a hole where the logo used to be.
However you feel about Kaepernick and his protest, what needs to be understood is that the outrage and boycott will change nothing. Colin Kaepernick sacrificed his career as an NFL quarterback to bring attention to racial injustice in the United States of America, and history will remember him for doing that. He will not be remembered for disrespecting the military, the flag, or the national anthem, because that is not what happened.
Nike is putting their arm around Kaepernick, and millions of others have done just the same. If you can’t deal with that and feel the need to get rid of your Nike apparel, that’s your decision, but at the end of the day, they still have the money you paid for it, you are the only one losing something…
...but if you are going to burn or ruin a pair of Jordan 1 “Shattered Backboard” in size 9.5 or 10, I beg you to just send them my way instead.