Nike, Kaepernick, Twitter and corporate America


By Alyse Kaminski | Staff Columnist 

Browsing Twitter last week, it quickly became common to see Nike socks and shoes being burned. I was missing pieces of the puzzle until I kept scrolling and saw a photo of Colin Kaepernick with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” and the Nike slogan underneath. From there, it all began to make sense: Nike picked Kaepernick to be the new face of the brand and the self-proclaimed patriots of America were not about to be caught dead in their Nike Elites anymore.

All I want to say about that aspect of the Nike controversy is this: Burning basic things that some people cannot even afford seems like a pretty unpatriotic way to protest.

The whole Nike conflict is interesting. There’s been a lot of debate, even within my own family, about the reasons Nike took this approach. When I told my mom I was writing about it, she immediately went on a tangent about Nike wanting profit. She, along with many others, speculated that Nike does not care about Kaepernick’s cause. The company just wants the money it will make from using his face.

I understand this point of view and there are facts to back it up. Nike is a huge company that knows how risk works, and it looks like the risk it took is generating profit. After the ad aired, sales increased by 31 percent, according to an article from TIME Magazine. Not only that, but CNBC reports that since the ad’s release, Nike has gained 170,000 new followers on Instagram.

However, the more I think about this, the more I think the company agrees with Kaepernick. Maybe I just like to play the optimist, but Nike has a history of going after tough issues. An article from Business Insider reminds us that it has done ads on sexism, racism, ageism and HIV/AIDS in the past. Just in 2017, it released the “What Will They Say About You?” campaign, which featured Middle Eastern women going against the standard of their society or religion.

Will Nike explicitly say that it is okay to take a knee for the anthem? Probably not. Even though this ad did cause an increase in sales, let’s not forget the aforementioned burning of merchandise. I think Donald Trump alone would emotionally explode if any Nike spokesperson uttered the phrase, “Take a knee.”

Plus, the ad is not only about Kaepernick’s kneeling. The commercial, which is very well done, features people whose bravery and strength goes unmatched — a young wrestler without legs, a previous patient with a brain tumor who lost over 100 pounds, the list goes on. The ad is about making emotional and physical sacrifices in order to pursue your dreams.

The ad also features other famous athletes, such as LeBron James and Serena Williams. Nike could have easily chosen either of these figures to narrate the ad and be the face of the campaign. Williams, who recently found herself in a controversy over game-time clothing, would have been another, perhaps safer, option. People would still have had various ideas about the ad and it would have done spiked sales in some way. However, Nike still chose Kaepernick for a reason.

No matter what, Nike chose Kaepernick for profit. Whether or not he was chosen in support of what Nike believes is definitely more vague, but I think Nike, to an extent, does sympathize with taking a knee for the anthem. If not that, it at least agrees with Kaepernick’s stance on the oppression of African Americans today.

I won’t complain about the Kaepernick advertisement. I like the vibe of the commercial. It is inarguably inspiring to see people overcoming the odds. I also had a great time playing with the Snapchat filter sponsored by Nike. Like the photo of Kaepernick, it was in black and white and had a similar phrase to the Kaepernick one across the middle.

To quote a President Trump tweet from Sept. 7: “What was Nike thinking?”

We know they were thinking about money, but maybe Nike also wanted to aggravate the president. It looks like if that was its goal, the company succeeded.

I always knew I liked Nike.