Nike’s decision to put Colin Kaepernick as the face of their most recent ad campaign places them on the right side of history. And, on the right side of protest.
The controversy over Kaepernick began when the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers made the decision to sit during the national anthem. This was later changed to a kneeling position after a conversation with Nate Boyer, U.S. veteran. Kaepernick has made it clear that his protest is about police brutality against people of color. However, this idea seems not so clear to some.
Twitter user @sclancy79 said “First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose 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?”
The tweet includes a video of @sclancy79 burning their white Nike shoes in some grass.
This misunderstanding of Kaepernick’s protest is unfortunately common. Kaepernick’s protest was never about the military, the flag, or the country. This was simply about black people being unjustly killed by police.
At best, opponents of Kaepernick could argue that the protest of the flag is an aftereffect of kneeling. However, this fallacious argument is problematic. Historically, black protests have been painted as an enemy to the state, thus deserving of a violent reprimand. I would contend that this is the same case here.
The only time it’s appropriate for an observer of a protest to make a judgement as to whether or not the protest or movement is actually following its goals or going against them, such as the call of “All Lives Matter” being a façade to protect structures that oppress people of color.
A good writer always approaches with a bit of skepticism. Businesses are designed to make profit, and Nike is no exception. I think that the deal with Kaepernick needs to be looked at with watchful eyes.
The first thing to realize is that other businesses were also looking at signing the pro. Nike did, then, nothing terribly noble. The second thing is looking at why he became famous in the first place.
Kaepernick’s protest made headlines because of his protest against the slaughter of black bodies. One could argue, then, that Nike is capitalizing on this calamitous phenomenon. In a way, they’re profiting off the protest, which wouldn’t exist in a world without police violence.
Good call for Nike, but this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. We still have work to do; progress to be made.