Earlier this week the news broke out that ex-NFL superstar and social activist, Colin Kaepernick, will be the face of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ 30th Anniversary campaign. The news came as a shock to many people, especially some of White America, who made their feelings and opinions very well known on social media. A quick search of #JustBurnIt will reveal the true gravity of this situation.
Now, if you don’t know who Colin Kaepernick is, then you’ve been living under a rock. But that’s ok, here’s a very brief rundown – Colin Kaepernick was an NFL athlete who sparked controversy in 2016 by taking a knee during the national anthem. His protest of the racial injustice and police brutality in America went on for a few months, until he was swiftly let go by his team, the 49ers, after refusing to stand during the anthem. This resulted in the loss of all of his endorsements and also led to him being blacklisted in the NFL, and he remains a free agent to this day.
This is certainly not the first time an athlete has used their platform to protest injustices in America. In 1936, 4x Olympic Gold medallist, Jesse Owens dominated the Olympic games in Nazi Germany and refused to salute to Hitler whilst on the podium.
In 1967, world renowned boxer Muhammed Ali refused to join the army to fight for America in the Vietnam war. He famously said in an interview ‘I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcongs’ and ‘ No Vietcong ever called me N*****r’. As a consequence he was sentenced to 5 years in prison, and fined $10,000.
Black Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos held their fists in the air at the 1968 Olympic Games during the American national anthem. They kept it raised throughout the entire song, and the event was seen as the most overtly political statement in the modern history of the Olympic games.
Fast forward to 2016, and African Americans are still fighting the same social injustices, and Colin Kaepernick is leading the way. The ex-NFL athlete has faced a lot of opposition from black and white Americans, including sports and political commentators, entertainers and even the president of the United States.
And then in comes Nike, one of the world’s leading sports brands and the leading sports Brand in America, who despite the expected criticism and backlash, awarded Kaepernick a multi-million-dollar deal, making him the face of their 30th Anniversary campaign (big dick energy).
From the outside looking in, this is a risky move for an iconic brand such as Nike, so it makes sense to question why Nike would take such risk. However, if you’re familiar with the historic Just Do It campaigns, then this campaign shouldn’t come as such a surprise. From ageism and disability to sexism and gay rights, Nike has always been at the forefront of brands addressing social and political injustices over the past 30 years. It’s clear from this campaign, and the many that came before it, that Nike is more than just a sportswear brand.
Nike is on fire.pic.twitter.com/tvUdIhBzOZ
— Complex (@Complex) September 5, 2018
What does this mean for Kaepernick? – Well, hopefully it means that all his efforts were not in vain. That the position he’d worked his whole life to reach and the sacrifice he chose to make was not in vain. This level of public support and validation is a reward for the sacrifices he has made over the past 2 years. His message was loud and clear, and now it has finally landed.
As for others who have watched from the side-lines, in awe of his efforts and sacrifices, this should act as an extra dose of much needed motivation to follow suit and take a stand (or in this case, a knee) for what they believe in.
Finally, I end this message by saying to Nike thank you for supporting our hero and I for one can’t wait to make my next Nike purchase.
Words by Mr Yemo