Have you watched the latest Nike ad featuring some controversial folks? (…aired in September 2018)
Colin Kaepernick is a football player who is now a free agent. He was drafted as a backup quarterback for the 49ers. In the middle of the 2012 season, ‘Alex Smith’ the starting quarterback of the 49ers suffered a concussion. Colin Kaepernick steps into the starting position for the rest of the season. His efforts brought the team to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994.
In the 2013 season, Kaepernick played his first full season as a starter; he helped the 49ers reach the NFC Championship. Past that, he became a free agent choosing to opt-out of his contract after the 2016 season with the 49ers.
The Cause for the Protest
Philando Castile was an African American who was shot by police after being “pulled over for a busted tail light,” according to his girlfriend who had the sense to stream the traffic stop live on Facebook. What made this even more heart wrenching is the sound of a child in the background letting her mom know she was ok during the live stream, while Philando Castile passes away in the front seat.
The second case, a week or two later, was Alton Sterling from Baton Rouge who was shot outside the ‘Triple S Food Mart’ after a meeting with two police officers. The video captured from a bystander shows officers wrestling Sterling to the ground and kneeling on him. The camera pans away and gunshots are heard — when it pans back, Sterling is seen sprawled on his back with a large blood stain on his chest. Not only was his death live-streamed, but it later became the spark for the campaign ‘Black Lives Matter’.
For more info and to view the live videos of these two incidents, click on the link here: https://www.cnn.com/2016/07/
07/us/shootings-alton- sterling-philando-castile/ index.html
In the NFL season of 2016, Colin Kaepernick became a national figure when he ignited a firestorm of controversy by choosing to kneel during the United States national anthem before the start of NFL games.
At that time the NFL had no official rule stating a player must stand during the national anthem. This act by Colin was copied by many other NFL players throughout the league as a protest to cultural injustice.
The action created a debate both positive and negative. When a player would kneel during the playing of the anthem, many fans of the NFL would protest themselves and leave the stadium or refuse to watch the game on television.
“NFL players should be banned for an entire season if they kneel during the national anthem more than once.” – Donald Trump
Reason being, many sports fans use sports as a way to escape from the daily grind that is everyday life. There is a group of fans that feel that the game is not the time nor place to bring up racial and cultural awareness. Many fans and owners would just like to see the best of the best play the game at the highest level without the drama. Many commentators and broadcasters believe if a player truly has a political issue, it should be dealt with through other avenues outside of the sport.
In return, it is much easier for a fan to turn a blind eye to star players who end up in the media for rape allegations, spousal abuse, infidelity, DUI’s, drug trafficking, dog-fighting scandals, etc.
On the flip side of the negative responses, Colin Kaepernick did receive the ‘Ambassador of Conscience Award’ which is Amnesty International’s most prestigious human rights award. Many other athletes praise him for his actions from other sports leagues.
May 27, 2018, The NFL announced a new rule banning players from kneeling in protest during the playing of the national anthem before games. If they choose not to stand, they can stay in the locker room, but if they violate the new rule, their teams will be fined.
The Nike Campaign
It’s only crazy until you do it.
Just do it.
The Campaign features two handicapped individuals displaying some incredible skills that are difficult for the abled… A skateboarder failing multiple times… Woman shadow boxing while wearing a hijab (headscarf)… LeBron James as a young basketball player, and then again, older, opening an ‘I Promise School’ for those less fortunate… Sirena Williams, a tennis player from Compton, and Alphonso Davis, a refugee who is now a 16-year-old soccer star playing for a national team.
…All crazy achievements in the world of sports.
The Brand and Culture
Nike is a US $24.1 Billion athletic apparel company that started from shoes, but has evolved far beyond that. Nike in the past has sided with many athletes who have been alienated from their sport due to outside influences. Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, to name a few. However, they are usually the best of the best at what they do and it always seems to align with Nike’s values.
I always say brands aren’t made; they are grown from cultivation, alignment of values and an actual product or service that works exceptionally well. Every athlete in the campaign was wearing some sort of Nike apparel both male and female regardless of age, race, sex, and physical abilities.
The star athletes featured in the campaign, LeBron James and Sirena Williams, have very rocky pasts within their sports. There are fans who love to hate them, while others have the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) conversations about them.
The true controversy is Colin Kaepernick and Alphonso Davis who are athletes with stories, that can now be amplified by a brand that stands behind them. Their values bring more people together under the brand that is Nike.
This campaign is business as usual for Nike. For those fans who wish Colin Kaepernick would just find some other way to protest outside of an NFL game to raise awareness of cultural injustice, your wish has been granted.
Well, here it is. The NFL would like the issue of players kneeling during the national anthem to go away. Nike however, has decided that the act of kneeling for social injustice during the national anthem should be addressed, and made a campaign.
I feel that as a black man, I appreciate the stand Colin Kaepernick has taken. After the death of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, its clear that marching and holding hands is not good enough. In order to make a difference, you have to do something crazy. If kneeling during the national anthem is the method chosen to let fans know something is F$&#ing wrong with the justice system, then so be it. Sport is something that should unite us as children, adults, and nations combined. I think Nike did a wonderful thing by backing up someone who did something crazy to bring awareness to social injustice. Further, this campaign could possibly save his career. I see no controversy with this ad, it is very uplifting to be perfectly honest. I don’t see this as an ad to sell more products, but rather a method by which to make the swoosh stand for something more than elite sports apparel. Revolutions have to start somewhere.