Kaepernick controversy remains in the headlines

Noah Dalton, Columnist

Nike has recently made major headlines with their announcement that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be the face of the 30th anniversary of their iconic “Just Do It” campaign. The ad features a black and white close up of his face which reads “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.

This is such big news because of the controversy surrounding Kaepernick and his now famous protest of racial injustice in the United States by kneeling during the national anthem before his games.

Kaepernick’s protests quickly picked up traction and a lot of detractors; however,  many supported him including quite a few of his fellow NFL players who joined in with the kneeling. It didn’t take long for the number of players kneeling to rise to the point where it was sometimes an entire team.

Because of all of the controversy that these protests stirred, Kaepernick has been left a free agent for the past few seasons with no teams interested in signing him. If a team were to sign Kaepernick they’d also be taking on all of the negative fanfare that would come with the move. In the vein, I think it’s worth noting that since these protests began NFL viewership has declined nearly 10% according to Sports Illustrated.

Oddly enough, even though so many people dislike Kaepernick and what he’s doing, there is a strong and vocal contingent who stand with him. His jersey was the number one seller for his team despite the fact that he was benched and it was the number two overall selling jersey in the league according to Bleacher Report. This is the reason that Nike has chosen to work with him and I personally think it’s a smart and interesting business decision.

I don’t really mind his protests, in fact as a big advocate of the First Amendment, I fully support it on principal, so I’m not upset by Nike choosing to make this move. It’s also fair to say I’m not really a fan of Kaepernick, though either, and it’s not even about the protests. Statistically speaking Kaepernick was a mediocre quarterback on his best days at the time he was benched and on top of that signing him will turn any training camp into a media circus so I completely understand why no team has done so.  

For Nike though, who has no wins and losses on the field to worry about, I think it’s a good move. Obviously many, were upset by the move and even took to boycotting the brand including burning their previously purchased Nike products. I think this is demonstrably idiotic. Why would Nike care if somebody defaces a product of theirs that they already purchased and that they received compensation for? Why would you not just sell it and at least get some return on your investment? I know personally speaking that I will happily take some of the Nike React Element 87s or the Air Force Ones designed by rapper Travis Scott that came out earlier this year in my size off of someone’s disgruntled hands who would like to sell me a pair.

I think based on the social media response that the number of passionate Kaepernick fans outweighs the boycotters and this is exactly what Nike wanted. On their end, the move is likely mostly if not entirely driven by money but it has the appearance of being a strong stand on a social issue so it gets them on some of the public’s good side. Also, for those it upset the outrage almost never lasts any substantial period of time especially when you are talking about a brand as established as Nike is. On top of that, this gets people talking about them, as this has been a top headline since its announcement, garnering comments from other star athletes such as LeBron James and Serena Williams, who vocalized support for it, as will as others including President Donald Trump, who were admittedly against it. This also puts Nike’s name at the forefront of the debate on police brutality and race relations, which has been raging since the Black Lives Matter movement rose to prominence recently.

Overall, I like this move from Nike. It’s always cool to me to see such a big brand take a stand on an issue such as this, even if they aren’t really risking much. I also find it interesting that they did it at this time, because they chose to air the commercial for the first time during an NFL game. This is made even more intriguing when you consider the fact that not only does Kaepernick currently have an ongoing lawsuit against the NFL for allegedly conspiring to keep him out of the league, but also Nike produces all of the NFL’s jerseys and team gear. Things like this add many additional layers to this story and I think it’s something that everyone should keep an eye on in the coming months, especially if you’re a football fan.