“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” is the bold statement stamped across Colin Kaepernick’s commanding face in Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign. Kaepernick took to Twitter on Sept. 3 and revealed his partnership with Nike, creating an uproar on social media.
Why are some people so angry that Colin Kaepernick is the new face of Nike?
In Aug. 2016, Kaepernick began protesting police brutality and racial injustice by sitting during the National anthem. Kaepernick used his platform as a professional football player to advocate for communities and people who don’t have a voice. Police brutality and racial injustice have been underlying issues for people of color in the United States and with the growth of social media, it has brought more awareness to the general public.
[media-credit name=”Photos Courtesy of Nike” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]“Police brutality in relations of black communities has always been there,” Joy Alino, junior international business major said. “However, now because we have social media, because we have cameras, because it is very quick to have the conversation towards this topic, now it’s in the forefront.”
“I’ll continue to sit. . . I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said in a statement to the NFL Media in Aug. of 2016. “To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
However, people were angry that Kaepernick used his athletic platform to protest and argued that sitting during the national anthem was disrespectful to active military members and veterans. When former U.S. Army veteran and former NFL player, Nate Boyer, reached out to Kaepernick and voiced his concerns with Kaepernick’s movement, Kaepernick set up a meeting with Boyer.
After discussion, the two agreed on a respectful way to honor those who serve and have served in the military.
“We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammate,” Boyer said in an interview with CBS Sports. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security.”
At the end of the 2016 season, Kaepernick became a free agent and parted ways with the San Francisco 49ers. As he was looking for a team to sign him, he began a campaign called “Know Your Rights Camp,” which was intended to “raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios,” according to Kaepernick’s website, www.kaepernick7.com/know-your-rights-camp/.
He also started a “Million Dollar Pledge” where he donated one million dollars plus all the proceeds from the sales of his jerseys to organizations that work in oppressed communities. He enlisted celebrities and athletes like Alicia Keys, Jesse Williams, Steph Curry, Snoop Dogg, Kevin Durant and Serena Williams to contribute to organizations like “Mothers Against Police Brutality” and “Communities United For Police Reform.”
In addition to this, Kaepernick donated around sixty thousand dollars worth of backpacks to students in Harlem and South Bronx. He also donated to the Black Youth Project 100, an organization with chapters all over the United States, whose goal is to create justice and freedom for all African Americans. Kaepernick additionally traveled around the United States as a keynote speaker addressing topics such as police brutality, discrimination and injustice towards black people.
“I’ve been looking at this for a while, trying to analyze exactly what his message and intentions were because I wasn’t really sure,” Warren Webb, senior computer information systems major, said. “But after reading a few articles, I realized he was trying to stand up for people that really couldn’t stand up for themselves,” Webb commented. “In terms of Nike partnering with him, even though Nike’s intentions may not necessarily be clear, they did elevate his platform.”
[media-credit name=”Photos Courtesy of Nike” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]In spite of Kaepernick’s efforts to create dialogue and change, the NFL continued to view players kneeling as disrespectful and saw ratings, viewership and overall support declining. NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, responded to fans by announcing the unanimous decision by the league’s owners to fine any player that kneels during the anthem. Players who do not wish to take part in standing for the anthem must stay off the field until the anthem is performed therefore silencing those who wished to protest.
“My main thing is Colin Kaepernick is protesting against racial injustice, the same way MLK did, the same way Rosa Parks did and other activists did, in a peaceful way but provoking way to get your attention,” Layomi Akinnifesi, senior business management major, said. “Protests are meant to draw attention, so if someone disagrees with him kneeling the question is why? Do they disagree that he’s kneeling against racial injustice? And if it’s not that, chances are they think, ‘it isn’t the time and the place to do it,’ but when is the right time to protest?”
Nike, a huge endorser of the NFL and provider of uniforms and clothing, signed a deal with the NFL last week that they would provide uniforms for all the teams until 2028.
After Kaepernick became the face of Nike, Ian Rapoport, a national insider for the NFL network, tweeted out a statement from the NFL that stated, “‘The National Football League believes in the dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities,’ Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s Executive Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs said. ‘The Social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.’”
Yet, the NFL is still fining players for kneeling during the anthem.
“For me personally, if you are more upset about the fact that Colin Kaepernick is kneeling down in protest of police brutality than police brutality itself, then you are the issue that needs to be solved,” Alino said.
People took to Twitter to voice their opinions after hearing about Kaepernick becoming the face of Nike. User @sclancy79, tweeted a video of him burning his Nike shoes with the caption, “First the NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. Then Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive?”
It has become clear in the past two years that people value symbols of freedom more than they actually do freedom itself. These players are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and protest and are using their platform to fight for basic human rights and equality for all. Instead of understanding what the players are protesting when they take a knee, people are arguing that they are disrespecting America.
“Kaepernick kneeling is one of the most respectful ways to protest,” Akinnifesi commented. “I’m quoting a post I read but, kneeling is a universal sign of reverence and respect, you kneel when you pray, you kneel in front of royalty, you kneel when you propose. Even though protesting is supposed to take you out of your comfort zone, he still is respectful while drawing much needed attention on racial injustice in America.”
[media-credit name=”Photos Courtesy of Nike” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]In light of all the political turmoil and how the right to free speech is being questioned, it’s important to remember that everyone has the right to protest and speak out on what they believe is true and just. Kaepernick and other athletes protesting the discrimination against people of color and speaking out on issues such as police brutality and racial injustice are using their platform to promote issues that are important in many communities. By becoming the face of Nike, Kaepernick gained a bigger platform to discuss these issue and incite change.
“I want this to be able to show people that yes, America does have its own share of problems, but at the end of the day, America stands for something greater,” Alino said.
Kaepernick ultimately is using his influence and right to free speech to respectfully and peacefully protest prominent issues that affect many communities.
Alino commented on the impact of other athletes’ protests and describes that, at the time, even though they weren’t viewed positively their actions helped create a better world.
“I guarantee you, 50 years from now they’re going to be building statues of Colin Kaepernick and they’re going to be talking about how he helped to lead or at least helped to continue a movement and they’re going to be talking about his actions,” Alino said. “When people are coming out and they are saying these vile things, do you really want the people in your family to look back at you and realize that you were on the wrong side of history?”