Opinion: Colin Kaepernick and Nike
September 21, 2018
Controversy recently spiked on September 5th, when Nike released an advertisement featuring football player Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has been a disputed public figure since 2016, when he refused to stand for the national anthem at a 49’ers game. He reportedly refused to stand as a symbolic protest against Police-African American violence; Kaepernick has received both public backlash and support for these actions. Nike thus signing the athlete on as a Nike ambassador has caused similar debate. Many people are now asking, “Is it morally right for Nike to use Colin Kaepernick as an advertisement?”
Michael’s Opinion: Nike isn’t a hero
We aren’t living in a country so enveloped in racial oppression that the flag and anthem literally symbolize it. Colin Kaepernick not standing for the pledge was melodramatic and unjustified for the issue. That being said, he perceived there was a major issue of oppression and moral corruption and that he had to speak out against, using his platform as a professional athlete. He risked and essentially lost his career to say something he felt needed to be said: African Americans are being persecuted by their own country. I actually respect him for what he did.
Love or hate Kaepernick, the real demon in this story is Nike.
While I’ve heard people talk about financially supporting Nike for opposing racial oppression and spreading Kaepernick as a hero, I feel compelled to remind that Nike has been one of greatest oppressors in the world. Americans may think of Nike as a social justice champion for giving Kaepernick this multi-million dollar deal, but we can’t forget that beyond our petty civil conflicts rests the entire world with Nike and its sweatshop empire. You may truly believe, like Kaepernick does, that America is a rigged system where the whites have all the power and trying to keep the minorities down in their place, but in contrast Nike has a brutal heritage of slavery in third-world countries.
According to the Huffington Post, Nike has made improvements within these last two decades. In a 2009 article, Jim Keady reported that the company no longer beats workers with machetes and tests women for menstruation to justify time off. However, Snopes, a fact checking website, claims that the company’s Vietnamese sweatshop workers made between $0.61 and $0.89 an hour in 2016. These low wages hardly seem like compensation for such a dangerous work environment. The hospitalization of nearly 500 Cambodian workers at a Nike supplier in 2017, highlight the horrific conditions that Nike allows in its wake. The Guardian states that temperatures in the Cambodian factory were maintained as high as 100F, causing many employees to pass out and fail to escape a subsequent fire. The contract made with Kaepernick is nearly blood money. The millions of dollars he’s receiving to speak out against injustice, are the result of a system of exploitation and inhumanity.
Just because Nike seems progressive in respect to the politics most Americans care about, doesn’t mean they aren’t contributing to a system of oppression a thousand times worse. If a $29.6 billion company is telling you to stand up to oppression, it doesn’t make them the good guys. It just makes them hypocrites.
Will’s Opinion: Nike can bring change
Nike’s new ad for their “Just Do It” campaign features Colin Kaepernick, a figure controversial for kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality before football games. Nike has received intense backlash from consumers, with some fans going as far as burning their Nike products.
Despite the rage, we should be commending Nike for taking a bold stance on U.S. politics.It is not very often that large companies attempt to directly influence politics, and that needs to change.
In the past, Nike’s “Just Do It” ads have always had a more social focus, typically covering topics like sexism, racism and xenophobia, but this is the first time Nike has decided to champion a key player in politics. With the support of a $30 billion company, Kaepernick’s protests can now reach beyond the bleachers and make more people aware of social issues that must be solved.
What about other companies? During last year’s Super Bowl, Coca-Cola released an ad presenting LGBT couples, but there is no central figure. In effect, Coca-Cola only says it wants to humanize the LGBT community, but it does nothing about it.
Audi’s 2017 Super Bowl ad featured a young girl winning a go-kart race against several boys. In the background the girl’s father contemplates if he needs to tell his daughter that men are inherently worth more than women. The message addresses the wage gap, but once again, effectively only says it wants to help.
On the other hand, Colin Kaepernick is well-known for his protests and will be actively present in politics until there is equality in America.
For Nike’s deal with Kaepernick, there is a simple and straightforward answer about its nature. Nike is not only saying it wants to fix racial issues in America, but it is backing a figure who has been, is and will be committed to his fight. By throwing its weight behind Kaepernick, Nike is opening a door to let other companies call for their own solutions to social issues.
Of course Nike isn’t perfect, but the Kaepernick deal will lead to change. Real, honest change that we, as Americans, need right now.