“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the lead columnist of WARR
Just in time for the newest NFL season, Colin Kaepernick is making headlines, but not for a heroic comeback to the football field.
What we’ve seen for the past week in the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s new deal with Nike, along with a fresh national ad that will be a part of the landscape of NFL broadcasts this entire season, is a sweet second helping of get-back by this ever-growing heroic figure towards the league that has effectively blackballed him for forcing the league to answer for its unique brand of sports oppression.
Now aligned with the official apparel and jersey supplier of the NFL, Kaepernick is in a unique position of self control and authority, the kind of position he’s struggled to find in the two-plus years he’s been effectively cast out of his profession for involving himself in the modern fight for civil rights in this country.
Kap’s first full strike against the NFL came in his court victory via a recent ruling that advanced his collusion case to have a full hearing that will take place at a later date, and now he headlining Nike’s 30-year anniversary campaign for their “Just Do It” commercials. Kap’s star turn as a pitchman aired during the NFL’s season-opener Thursday night.
Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the NFL, explained (Vox)
Also involving Nike mainstays Serena Williams and LeBron James, the Just Do It anniversary campaign sticks out as a platform that is being spearheaded by star athletes that have taken active roles as representatives for the black community and advocates for women’s rights. This power move does not only show that Nike understands the positives and negatives of business in today’s social climate, but that Kaepernick’s efforts in particular can be understood and appreciated by a major company.
Many individuals have expressed their willingness to stand (or kneel) with Kap in the last couple years but this kind of co-sign hasn’t been matched for him since he was out of the league.
Nike’s decision to support Kaepernick’s social justice efforts does not come from out the blue, it stands in a long tradition of thought-provoking content the sneaker giant has produced.
Charles Barkley set the tone for Nike’s willingness to provoke when he partnered with them for the infamous “I’m not a role model” commercial, receiving backlash for not elevating the responsibility of athletes in regards to the examples they set for the average man, woman and child. At the same time the discussion regarding just how much responsibility we should leave to athletes to formulate those standards has been worth having and it has lasted to the present day.
Nike also are vets when it comes to clashing with an entire league, as it did with Michael Jordan when the NBA initially banned his exclusive Jordan brand of shoes back in the 1980s for its colorways. Nike obviously was on the right side of history with that one as Jordan and his shoes became more and more synonymous with the establishment and expansion of the NBA as a worldwide marketing machine that accepts shoe colors and designs of all types now.
When all the major endorsement groups dropped Tiger Woods during his tenure of bad public behavior around 10 years ago, Nike stuck with him and it has paid off more and more lately with Tiger starting to play like his old self again. The same with Kobe Bryant: when Nike stuck with him after the 2004 trial involving his accusation of rape in Colorado. Bryant went on to have a series of best-selling shoes with the company and along with his two championships won as a Nike athlete established himself as one of the greatest to play the game by his much publicized retirement.
Nike has consistently supported social justice issues embraced by athletes. This latest campaign and its focus proves that the company weighs things not only against their lucrative branding opportunities, they can also make decisions actively to stand “on the right side of history.”
“We’re dealing with this kind of civil war happening in the States where there’s this great divide,” branding expert Tony Chapman stated to Bloomberg News this week.
“I think Nike is saying, I don’t want to be in the middle, I have to take a side and the side they’re taking is people that are absolutely believing in a better America.”
This could be the case formany people that didn’t support Kaepernick’s protests from the beginning, who instead fed into the vociferous backlash that Nike has received since the announcement of this campaign. People have been filmed burning their Nike products, even to the point where they are lighting their shoes on fire with their feet still in the shoe! Both #BoycottNike and #Nikeboycott have been made trending hashtags on Twitter along with Nike’s original #JustDoIt hashtag to justify their boycotting agendas and counter-platforming of the Kaepernick selection.
President Trump joined the bashing party as well to once again bash social justice movements and their promoters, telling the conservative news site The Daily Caller in an interview, “I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it.”
Reports have given mention how Nike shares have fallen 3 percent since Tuesday in the stock market, according to CNN Money.
There is a price to be paid in order to join the right side of history in a timely manner, and Nike understood that, likely by observing the gracious battle that Kaepernick has fought. There will always be people that do not agree with your agenda, but at least be respectful with the opposition.
We are taking a step back in history with so many among us becoming more un-American everyday, standing steadfast against the qualities that give our nation a chance to be great, instead wallowing in the comfort empty slogans that evoke a past, incorrect “greatness.”
And we have a duty to change such narratives, not just in words, but in actions as well. Instead of burning clothes, shoes and any other Nike apparel that you may now deem tasteless, if you must boycott Nike, then give the shoes to the homeless, or better yet the homeless veterans that have fought for our country and never fully recovered from the gears of war.
Moreover, if you’re offended by the commercial, even though it doesn’t really give you any reason to be offended, then just don’t watch TV. Such a choice would be more dignified, patriotic and American than burning clothes.
America, the Beautiful continues to get uglier, but Kaepernick continues to shine as the most patriotic out of all the haters setting a standard that we as an entire nation have to adapt in order to do better.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio