Taylor Abbey | firstname.lastname@example.org | September 10, 2018
Copyright Nike 2018
Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has become the subject of polarizing debate in the contemporary American political sphere. In 2016, the ex-NFL star garnered much scrutiny after kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racial injustice in the U.S., causing more players to follow suit. The NFL officially rescinded his contract early 2017, with no indication of teams intending to sign him in the league in the near future. Then, last Monday, Nike commemorated the 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” campaign with Kaepernick front and center.
Nike’s decision was inevitably met with a whirlwind of responses. Many praised the company for continuing to sustain the conversation surrounding racial injustice in America, while others resorted to burning all Nike attire they owned. Discussions surrounding the campaign have centered around Nike’s main motivation behind this bold move, leading some to question if Nike genuinely wants to help facilitate a conversation around racial injustice or if this is just an elaborate marketing ploy.
While reactions from the media have been generally mixed over these past couple days, Nike has received a considerable amount of unwavering support following the announcement of this campaign. Even within the d.tech community, hopes are high that Nike and Kaepernick will continue to sustain a dialogue when it comes to racial injustice in the U.S. “I think it’s pushing the conversation forward,” said Student Culture Coordinator, Henry Lonnemann. “I’ve seen on Facebook recently a lot of memes surrounding old white men who are burning their [Nike] shoes.” Lonnemann continued, “I think that demographic in this country is fearful of the power they had and now it’s gone, but I think it’s great. It may give more power to people who haven’t had a voice in the past.”
Amid the support, however, has been a considerable amount of criticism, mostly in regards to whether or not Kaepernick was best suited to join forces with Nike. Senior Malakhi Martinez expressed his initial reaction to the campaign, commenting on how he thought Kaepernick was an interesting choice considering he’s mostly faded into obscurity when it comes to playing sports. “[Kaepernick] has a lot of fans, and don’t get me wrong, I respect him, but he’s not really a sports player,” Martinez said, “He doesn’t play in the NFL anymore because nobody’s signed him anywhere. It’s an interesting campaign where it’s more political than actually sports-related.”
Another facet to this campaign that garnered skepticism was the monetary motivation behind it, with many questioning Nike’s true intentions. “I think certain companies and Nike are like, ‘We don’t really care if these rednecks aren’t going to buy our shoes anymore, we don’t need you,’” Lonnemann said, “But it’s also a company, so I’m curious to if it’s a marketing ploy. Is it capitalism?”
Junior Jemma Schroder, however, praises the company on their marketing. “My first reaction was that it was a genius idea,” Schroder said. “This type of viral publicity, you can’t buy that. It only comes from natural reactions on social media.” Schroder acknowledged that the left-leaning nature of mainstream media will surely bring Nike overwhelmingly good press, and said she thought the campaign will attract African American men and women from across the country.“Black Americans disproportionately spend a lot more on clothes from companies like Nike, so that’s sort of Nike’s biggest follower bases,” Schroder said, “and since seven out of ten black Americans support Kaepernick, it’s a big plus.”
It’s clear that’s Nike’s partnership with Kaepernick has simultaneously helped further the conversation surrounding racial injustice in America, while also sparking outrage among conservative Americans. With Nike having just premiered their first commercial starring Kaepernick on Thursday, September 6th, this is only the beginning of much more conversation and debate surrounding this controversial campaign.