I know you have seen it, it needs no introduction, the Nike ad. Well, as with most everything, I have something to say. Let me start by giving you my opinion on the National Anthem protests. Now I will try my best to not get overly political in this post and I don’t think my opinion is very political, but I do think it is important and will explain why I feel like I do about this ad. For starters, it has never bothered me that athletes knelt for the National Anthem. I think the 1st Amendment affords Americans the right to kneel, sit, or stand with their fist raised whenever they want. I also understand the point of the protest and believe Kaepernick and other NFL players thought they were bringing attention to a very important issue. That being said, I also believe that the NFL has every right to demand that they stand, just as the NBA demands of all of its players. The NFL is a business and businesses are allowed to make rules that employees must follow. We have all had jobs and all of us know that there are things that we do and say at home that are not allowed while we are working and representing our place of employment. Lastly, I have never really understood why the National Anthem is played before a sports game. I understand during the Olympics or if Team USA is playing or even the Super Bowl, the one game where American football is on display to the world. But at its core sports are for entertainment and we don’t play the National Anthem before concerts or movies, so why sports? This is why I have always felt that the controversy surrounding this protest on both sides was quite silly.
Because of this silliness, I was on Kaepernick’s side. I just couldn’t understand why he had become enemy number one nor did I understand why he became some sort of martyr. I don’t believe even Kaepernick expected this simple act to become what it did. I leave some blame with President Trump. I think it was his rhetoric and his constant talk about it that made this the issue it now is. Had he not said anything, I think it would have died out in the midst of our 24- hour news cycle. But Trump has figured out something that several politicians still can’t wrap their heads around and that is that the United States is an extremely patriotic country and we, generally as a whole, are very proud to be Americans. I read several opinions pieces and one brought up a good point and that was that no matter how many times we are told that kneeling for the flag means no disrespect to our country or our troops, people will continue to see it as such. This simple gesture was a lose/lose for Kaepernick and he was not prepared for it.
Soon after the protest started, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. He has not seen an NFL field since. Currently he is claiming that the NFL owners are colluding to keep him out of the league and the case goes to trial next month. I don’t know about collusion, after all, Kaepernick did lose his starting job. He was something like 1-10 in his last season and was on the verge of being cut. He just wasn’t all that great. That being said, there are some that make the very valid argument that he is better than certain players in the league right now. I do know that the Baltimore Ravens were going sign him until his girlfriend said some not so nice things about the Raven’s owner on Twitter.
This leads me to another point and that is that the NFL is here to make a profit. If Kaepernick is unprofitable than it doesn’t matter how good he is. Without getting into the issue of race, I will just mention that the NFL’s core audience is middle class white males. Middle class white males are the most patriotic people you will ever meet. I grew up with them, so I can tell you that they will never ever accept certain things being said about this country or accept perceived disrespect to our military. I don’t mean any disrespect with that comment, it’s just the truth and there is nothing wrong with that truth. This fact is further evidenced with the several memes I’ve seen being shared on social media of Kaepernick’s face in the Nike ad being replaced with pictures of the troops. The NFL is losing viewership thus losing money and it’s losing both fast. Part of this is due to the safety issue that now surrounds the game of football and the fact that the NFL has a women problem as they do not seem to hold their players accountable when domestic violence happens. They definitely don’t need any other controversies which finally leads me to the Nike ad itself.
The ad features the tagline “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Immediately social media exploded. Some loved the ad, while others, including many that once supported Kaepernick, hated it. Most of what I have seen while scrolling twitter has not been all that positive. Many people, including me, see this as a sell out. The tagline is causing issue with many many people. “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” and while yes Kaepernick believes in something, no one will doubt that, did he really sacrifice everything? Up until yesterday, I may have made the argument that he had sacrificed something. He had lost the ability to make money from the game he loves, but now we know that throughout his unemployment he was receiving a hefty paycheck from Nike. A paycheck that some have said is bigger than that of a backup NFL quarterback. I take issue with the idea of “sacrificing everything”. He really hasn’t sacrificed anything. He is still a very rich and famous athlete even though he has not played a game in almost two years. He is now profiting off his protest, a protest that he claimed was to bring attention to a cause he was passionate about. Now his protest will help him sell shoes specifically branded for him. These shoes will potentially make him millions of dollars. By the way, Nike makes much (if not all) of their shoes and apparel in Asian sweatshops often using child laborers, or so I’m told. It’s quite disappointing.
This decision by Nike already seems to be backfiring. Their stock took a huge hit today and people are beginning to boycott. By the closing bell on the NYSE, Nike lost 3% of it’s market capitalization, which was equivalent to $3 billion. As for the boycott…let me take this opportunity to say that these boycott wars are stupid and both sides of the aisle are guilty of this. To those currently burning your perfectly good Nike apparel to “stick it to the libs,” why not donate them to homeless vets? I mean this is about the troops, right?
Finally, how about we all agree to this. Let’s keep politics out of sports. This is not to say that celebrities are not allowed to have political opinions. As Americans they have every right to agree or disagree with certain issues or certain people. They even have a right to express those opinions publicly. However, “normal” people are not allowed to discuss certain things at work and maybe certain things should not be discussed on the sports field.
Movies, music, and sports provide an escape. They are inherently intended to bring people together, not divide. For two hours we can come together and journey with Dorothy to Oz, dance to “Single Ladies”, or cheer for our city and our school. When we get into that sports stadium, it doesn’t matter your race, your gender, your sexual orientation, your religion, or who you voted for in the last election, all that matters is that you “root for the home team.” How many times have you been at a college or pro football game and when your team scores a TD everybody around you high fives each other?? It happens all the time! Somewhere we have forgotten this and have made everything political thus forcing us to choose sides resulting in hatred for complete strangers just because they don’t agree with our exact opinion. This is the root of the problem with the Nike ad. This ad is political and now sneakers are political too. Wearing or not wearing Nikes can be seen as a political statement or just another reason for us to be divided. Maybe, just maybe, what this country needs is to find its “happy place” and maybe that “happy place” could be the sports, the teams, the athletes, and the coaches that we all love so much. Sports give us something to cheer for and something to root for and something to bring us ALL together.
💚 Katie M.