When Nike decided to use Colin Kaepernick as the face of their 30th “Just Do It” campaign, I was shocked, yet enthralled by their controversial decision. Kaepernick embodies the rights we all have as American citizens. To stand up for our beliefs and our rights to freedom of speech.
“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The simplicity of the Nike ad makes it easy for anyone to understand at face value, but dig deeper and you’ll soon realize there’s a bigger, more important meaning to it all.
While Kaepernick’s actions during the national anthem were not expressed with words, his silent kneels showcased his thoughts about social injustice and the undignified killings of African-Americans at the hands of the police.
“Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going,” wrote Nike co-founder, Phil Knight, in his 2016 memoir, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike. “Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where ‘there’ is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”
Nike knew what they were getting themselves into when they made Kaepernick the face of their campaign: backlash, decline in stock, and people boycotting a company because of a figure whose actions didn’t resonate with them. This was a calculated move, one that we should all expect from Nike. Nike believes in the fight against racial injustice, and to simply make money. At the end of the day, it’s all about business and the NFL cutting ties with Nike would look ridiculous.
Kaepernick has been signed with Nike since 2011 and even after his gestures of taking the knee caught wildfire nationwide, Nike still decided to keep him on board.
Because Nike knows Kaepernick’s value as an activist and social figure. Despite basically being exiled by the NFL since 2016 (the start of his U.S. national anthem protest), Kaepernick is as big as ever. And with Nike still by his side, he’s become a polarizing icon.
According to Bloomberg, with Nike releasing its latest ad for their 30th campaign, “The latest estimates put the value of the media exposure from the campaign at more than $163 million — almost four times the $43 million tallied in the first 24 hours since the ad debuted.”
It’s no secret that attaching Kaepernick’s name to any project will generate buzz around the world. According to The Undefeated, “A month after Kaepernick started his protest, Kaepernick had the top-selling jersey in the NFL. Last year, Kaepernick’s jersey was in the top 50 among NFL players despite the fact he wasn’t even on an NFL roster.”
Nike is also no stranger to working with outspoken athletes such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Perhaps the most well known out of them all today is NBA player LeBron James.
During a regular season game in 2017 against the Washington Wizards, James wore a pair of his LeBron 15’s with the word “EQUALITY” written on the back of the shoes.
When asked about his choice of footwear after the game, he stated, “Us as Americans, no matter the skin color, no matter the race, no matter who you are, I think we all have to understand that having equal rights and being able to stand for something and speak for something and keeping the conversation going [is important].”
Who remembers when journalist Laura Ingraham infamously told James to “shut up and dribble” after discussing politics in an interview?
“The best thing she did was help me create more awareness,” said James.
To all the haters, the boycotters, the naysayers, and anyone who recorded a video or took a photo of themselves destroying their Nike products, good job. Thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing. At the end of the day, you are NOT the audience Nike is trying to appease. Negativity will always outshine positivity. All you’re doing is generating greater awareness on social and racial injustices.