This month, Nike released both a video and photo advertisement for the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” campaign. The athlete chosen to represent the brand? Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, most well-known for choosing to kneel during the national anthem before football games as a protest against the shooting of unarmed African Americans and police brutality, narrates the video ad and stares stoically outward in the photo. The video features a wide array of athletes from multiple backgrounds as they perform, all while Kaepernick speaks about the nature of crazy dreams. Both the photo and video feature the phrase, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” This is, of course, referencing the backlash against Kaepernick and eventual loss of his position in the NFL.
This is absolutely a bold choice from Nike, and the brand has received a largely positive response considering the controversial nature of the ad. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 49 percent of all respondents were in favor and 67 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 were in favor. The brand’s stock closed at an all-time high last Thursday, reaching $83.47, while Nike’s Instagram gained 170,000 followers near the ad’s release.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive response, those who opposed Kaepernick’s protests took to social media to express their distaste with the brand. The hashtag #NikeBoycott quickly rose in the ranks on Twitter, accompanied by photos of those who had cut the trademark Nike swoosh off their socks or even burned their shoes, citing the ad as disrespectful to the American flag as well as our troops.
While most could spend hours debating about those who are kneeling during the national anthem, this seems like an odd way to protest. Nike doesn’t lose anything from you destroying the merchandise you’ve already purchased. One Twitter user stated, “Here’s an idea. If you think America’s veterans deserve more respect, why not donate your clothes to a veterans’ charity instead of cutting them up with scissors like a dumb, spiteful little brat?”
Many current and former veterans also took to Twitter to counterpoint the #NikeBoycott with their support for both the brand and Kaepernick. Air Force Lt. Col. Marsha L. Aleem wrote, “I am a Black woman so I understand why Kaepernick protested. I am also a Retired Lt. Colonel. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Kaepernick exercised his First Amendment Right and I support him. He is not disrespecting me, the flag, or the national anthem, which I sang at various functions throughout my years of service. Any military or veteran who does not support Kaepernick’s right to protest is not a Patriot.”
These aren’t statements to be easily ignored. People are getting more upset over the fact that Nike chose an athlete protesting racial violence for its ad campaign than the fact that Nike has faced multiple claims that it uses sweatshops with minimal regulations protecting workers. It must also be mentioned that despite the progressive nature of the ad, Nike donates a significantly larger amount of money — about 78 percent of its political contributions in this past election cycle — to Republicans. Regardless, maybe if those who get heated up over a brand publicly supporting an anti-racial violence activist would spend a fraction of the time they’re taking to destroy their merchandise on advocating for better mental health care for veterans or ensuring their education, the people who serve our country would truly be better off.
Elizabeth Short is a sophomore majoring in biology.