Nike, Kaepernick and Controversy

Cartoon by: Dale Quaid

Last NFL football season, Colin Kaepernick sat during the national an­them. Very few people noticed the first time that Kaepernick sat. And then, Kaepernick began kneeling during the na­tional anthem that signals the start of one of the most watched television programs in America. The world erupted.

People were furious. Many voices told Kaepernick that football and activism didn’t belong together, that he was disre­specting the military by kneeling and many other what we can only imagine were hurt­ful things. At the time, many people did not know that Nate Boyer, a former Army Green Beret, was the person who advised Kaepernick to kneel rather than sit.

But we do know that now, and people are more furious than ever.

It appeared to be over. Though Kaepernick was a standout college quar­terback and was extremely talented on the NFL playing field, weeks into the NFL’s free agency policy still saw Kaepernick without a team. The NFL appeared to be avoiding him.

And then Nike signed Kaepernick and Kaepernick’s first ad with Nike dropped. The ad features a close-up of Kaepernick’s face, done in a soft greyscale, with words in white emblazoned below his eyes: “Be­lieve in something. Even if it means sacri­ficing everything.” The controversy start­ed back up again. We’re sure you’ve seen the countless memes mocking the Nike ad and the aerial photos of Kaepernick’s home saying, “This is what ‘sacrificing ev­erything’ looks like.” Again, many people criticized Kaepernick saying that he was disrespecting the military.

Many people also criticized Nike. And burned their Nike products. In fact, at least two small colleges have broken their deals with Nike: Truett McConnell Uni­versity, a liberal arts school in Cleveland, Georgia, and the College of the Ozarks, a liberal arts school in Point Lookout, Missouri. In Kenner, Louisiana, a mayor banned the city’s parks and rec depart­ment from buying Nike products. Though Mayor Ben Zahn did not mention Kaeper­nick by name, he did say, “Nike was pro­moting a ‘political message’ to sell shoes. He said he was protecting ‘taxpayer dollars from being used in a political campaign,” according to an article on nypost.com.

People also began calling for a boycott of Nike products. Nike lost $3.3 billion “in the immediate wake of its controver­sial Colin Kaepernick ad,” according to Lisa Fickenscher in an article from the NY Post. But the company has gained all that back, plus some. In fact, Nike stocks are higher now than they were “pre-Kaeper­nick ad,” according to the same article. Edison Trends reported that Nike’s sales went up by 31 percent from Sept. 2 to Sept. 4. That’s a huge increase in just two days.

Love him or hate him, Kaepernick has managed to get people talking. But, are people talking about the things Kaeper­nick was protesting to begin with?

Kaepernick has said numerous times that he kneels to protest racial injustice against minorities in America. But no one seems to be talking about that. In­stead, people are protesting Nike signing Kaepernick to begin with.

At The Arka Tech, we believe that, re­gardless of whether or not anyone agrees with Kaepernick’s methods, we should all at least understand his message. Without being in the shoes of a minority or person of color in America, how can we even be­gin to understand? How can we say that Kaepernick should keep his politics to himself when he feels so strongly about such an important topic?

We are not saying that you should nec­essarily agree with Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. We under­stand how that could be taken as a sign of disrespect.

However, we see numbers like 1,730 black Americans per 100,000 are current­ly incarcerated, compared to 270 white Americans per 100,000, according to ps­mag.com; “Black households have only 10 cents in wealth for every dollar held by white households,” according to the PEW Research Center; and that 92 percent of African Americans believe that white peo­ple benefit “from advantages that blacks do not have,” according to the PEW Re­search Center. We want to listen, and we want to affect positive change.

The Arka Tech implores you to look beyond Kaepernick’s method and focus in on what Kaepernick is trying to tell you. He is using his extremely large platform to talk about an issue that is deserving and that he feels strongly about. Wouldn’t you do the same?