“Just Do It.”
The famous catchphrase took on a new meaning on September 3, when the U.S. athletics brand Nike announced their 30th anniversary campaign. The cover star of the campaign is former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who cut ties with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 after he ‘took a knee,’ in protest of police brutality, during the National Anthem.
Kaepernick had played six games in the National Football League before beginning his protest. Consumers have chosen to burn their products in defiance of the company’s allegiance with the rather controversial star Colin Kaepernick.
In March of 2017, the NFL star declared himself a free agent, which still stands in effect up to this day. According to Buzzfeed News, Nike had approached the football player back in 2011, when he was added to their endorsement roster. Since then, they had paid Kaepernick to become the face of their 30th anniversary campaign, eventually revealing their project to the world during the NFL season opener on Thursday, September 6.
While fellow athletes have since then followed Kaepernick’s lead, others such as NFL owners, sports fans, and even President Donald Trump have voiced their anger.
At an Alabama rally in 2017, Trump announced that he’d love to see an NFL owner fire a player for kneeling during the National Anthem, and even went so far as to say, “get that son of a bitch off the field right now.”
Two weeks after the rally, Vice President Mike Pence was found amongst the spectators of yet another NFL game, only to walk out “in disgust” when the players initiated their protest, citing that he “…will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”
In response to the criticism it was receiving, the NFL announced they had revised their policy: While players would be ‘disciplined’ for protesting during the Anthem, they would not be required to stand on the field during the ceremony. However, on September 9, the policy was retracted in favor of their former policy. According to TIME Magazine, “NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a revision of its Game Operations Manual on May 23 to include fines for teams whose “personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”
ESPN writer Adam Schefter reports the issue has reached the point where compromise is no longer a viable option, as people have formed standpoints too solid to confer. As for the upcoming fall season, there is no policy currently in place.
Following the unveiling of Nike’s latest ambassador, the company’s sales have been targeted by those who do not condone the campaign.
Louisiana mayor Ben Zahn ordered a “Nike boycott” the day after the campaign was released.
According to CNN, a memo published regarding the issue reads, “Under no circumstances will any Nike product or any product with the Nike logo be purchased for use or delivery at any City of Kenner Recreation Facility”.
Ironically, Nike’s online sales have risen by 31% in the past four days since the release of the campaign, according to TIME. Over Labor Day weekend, from Sunday to Tuesday, sales have increased by 31% compared to 2017’s sales.
Boycotters who disagreed with the company’s stance have taken to social media to record themselves destroying their Nike merchandise, whether it be with scissors or flame. Trending on Twitter were the hashtags ‘#BoycottNike’ and ‘#JustBurnIt.’
An employee for the Nike Call Center confided to a Rolling Stones reporter that some of the whole spectacle had hit close to home for the employees. “A lot of us have more respect for our company than we have in the past. We feel a big swell of pride that we stood up for something meaningful. But we’ve been getting harassed like crazy” the subject explained. “It felt like it was the proverbial klan’s mask: looking at someone and not knowing their identity, wanting to take off the mask, but you’re getting your ass whooped so you can’t.”
Professor Housseas of the English Department at Queens College agrees that Kaepernick was not only justified, but worthy of praise. “As the child of immigrants, I was told I had the privilege of being born in a country where I had the rights to both accept and challenge the culture and society I was born into. Colin Kaepernick’s actions seem to uphold this story while simultaneously exposing it as a myth. He felt he had the right to kneel. But the backlash he received when he “stood up” calls the definition of his rights and the rights of others into question.”
Housseas continued, saying, “I’m a fan of the 30th anniversary Nike campaign. It touches on a variety of important subjects, such as gender, disability, race, immigration, and education. I also find the quote linked to Kaepernick’s experience and activism, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” relatable to a larger audience, which I consider to be one of Nike’s pillars.”