Why we should support Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advertisement


Photo Credit: Keith Allison

San Francisco 49ers kneel before the start of a football game in 2017. This occured over a year after Kaepernick first kneeled.

by Chloe Siohan, Copy Editor

Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL player for the San Francisco 49ers, decided to kneel during the National Anthem before a game started in 2016. Kaepernick felt that taking a knee would be an appropriate way to protest ongoing racism towards black Americans.

Since then, Kaepernick has been both supported and shunned for his decision. Many argued that him taking a knee during the national anthem was unpatriotic and offensive to the military, yet some people thought that his act of civil disobedience was admirable, because he risked his livelihood to do so.

While some argue that Kaepernick kneeling was offensive to American troops, this was not the purpose for his kneeling. Kaepernick was protesting the treatment of black people in America– not the troops. It’s a misconstruction of his intent when people use this argument, as the reason for kneeling for the national anthem was due to the fact that he didn’t agree that the ideals the anthem and flag symbolize hold true to black Americans.

A situation like this is comparable to Muhammad Ali’s rejection of the Vietnam War draft. While Ali supported his country, he did not support the war and what it stood for. He stated, after denying his draft, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

Ali was then stripped of his boxing titles, at least for a few years. Furthermore, he was charged for not joining the Army, and had his case taken to the Supreme Court, where they ruled in his favor. Both Ali and Kaepernick had to give up their careers in order to express their political beliefs, and presently, Kaepernick is fighting the NFL in court on the basis of collusion.

Recently, Nike released a controversial ad featuring Kaepernick with a message reading, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

While it is probable to say that Nike signed with Kaepernick as a marketing tool to designed to make money, a risk was taken with this decision. Nike had the fear of upsetting a large number of people, including potential customers and the President.

And although one could argue that the ad’s sole purpose was to make money, that does not hold true. In fact, researchers predicted that the ad would cause sales to drop, according to Market Watch. On the contrary, it did the opposite, and they reportedly received a 31% increase in online sales after the ad was released. A company as powerful as Nike could have chosen a different type of advertising that would make them money but not create controversy.

Following the release of the ad, a number of people decided to boycott Nike. One Louisiana Mayor, Ben Kahn, who was against Kaepernick taking a knee at sporting events, banned local recreational facilities from purchasing any Nike equipment or merchandise. According to People magazine, Kahn said, “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.” Eventually, he lifted the controversial ban, stating that it “divided” his city.

The President even commented, “What was Nike thinking?” via Twitter.

The NFL denied Kaepernick his right to free speech by blacklisting him and introducing a fine once he spoke up about a subject they deemed “controversial.” The fine itself is the subject of controversy, with arguments stating that fining a player for kneeling bars their right to express themselves freely. In turn, though, Nike gave a platform to a man who was denied his privileges to protest and express his opinions peacefully. Thus showing that Nike chose to support free speech, while the NFL chose to impede upon it.

If children aren’t allowed to be forced to salute the flag, say the pledge, etc. in public schools, as ruled in West Virginia BOE v. Barnette, how come a football player is punished for doing so? If we accept fining someone for expressing a belief non-violently, what else will we do to punish this type of passive protest in the future?

The only way change can happen is if activists are given a platform. Before, Kaepernick’s platform was NFL games, where he could deliver his message to hundreds of thousands of people. Until Nike featured him in their ad, he was denied a platform and blackballed. Not only does this ad mean Kaepernick is being kept in the public eye, sparking the debate again, but it could potentially lead to social change.

Ultimately, Nike chose to support the First Amendment. And it was a good decision.