Editorial: What to make of the Nike campaign

September 12, 2018

Nike made headlines last week with its most recent addition to its long-running “Just Do It” campaign, now in its 30th year.


In a video advertisement released Sept. 5 titled “Dream Crazy,” the shoe giant introduced former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as its newest spokesperson.


Kaepernick features most prominently in the ad as a voiceover, at one point, imploring viewers to “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”


Almost immediately after the ad’s publication, controversy surrounded Nike’s decision to endorse Kaepernick.


Some denounced Nike for affiliating with the quarterback, who is currently a free agent; Kaepernick has drawn criticism for kneeling during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before NFL games, his personal protest of racism and police brutality.


Videos circulated online of critics burning or otherwise destroying Nike products that they had previously purchased.


President Donald Trump weighed in with a tweet: “What was Nike thinking?”


Others have praised the company for its willingness to endorse such a polarizing figure. A few of Nike’s most high-profile athletes, including LeBron James, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods, have spoken out in support of Kaepernick.


The move has not damaged Nike’s stature; in fact, according to Edison Trends, Nike’s online sales have seen a 31 percent increase since unveiling Kaepernick as its new face.


But that’s not the point.


Ever since Kaepernick first protested during the 2016 NFL preseason, it seems like an inordinate amount of attention has been placed on his supposed lack of respect for United States military and the country’s ideals.


Detractors of Kaepernick insist that he should take his protest elsewhere, that it has no business interfering with the flag.


They’ve gotten their wish. No NFL team wants to touch Kaepernick, effectively eliminating his platform and damaging his career. He can surely take his protest elsewhere, but it won’t have the same wide-reaching audience.


For as much as some fans may want football players, and athletes in general, to stick strictly to sports, the truth is that many athletes have a great deal of public visibility.


There’s not many professions where thousands of people will devote hours out of their day just to watch someone do his/her job.


Isn’t it irresponsible to let such a powerful platform go to waste?


Maybe if people paid half as much attention to the civil rights activists, scholars, educators and humanitarians of the world as they do to football players, athletes wouldn’t have to be the silent megaphone for injustice.


It doesn’t even matter that Kaepernick’s protest was never about the military, or that many veterans have expressed support for his actions.


His critics have succeeded in shifting the focus away from racism and police brutality. 


A similar shift has occurred within the Nike campaign. But this time, that’s probably what Kaepernick and the company were hoping for.


In essence, the advertisement’s message is that no dream is too crazy to become a reality.

While important, this is not meant to be the video’s focal point. Nike endorses a host of prominent athletes; James could have easily been the face of this campaign.


Yet, Nike went with Kaepernick.


Typically, brands refrain from “getting political” to appear neutral and reduce the chance of alienating any potential customers.


But in a country that grows increasingly contentious by the day, Nike chose to take a stand with the man known for kneeling.


Just as Kaepernick is free to kneel, consumers are free to boycott. However, we implore those on the other side of the field to put their constitutional rights to better use than that.


Do something constructive. Start a civil conversation and engage in productive discussion. Find out more about Kaepernick’s cause. Be willing to change for the better.


Just do it.



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