Nike Making Waves with Controversial Endorsement

The Global Clothing Brand has Officially Endorsed Civil Rights Activist Colin Kaepernick, to Mixed Responses


(Valianti Photos)

Fisher teaching his class about the Kaepernick Ad, and the ramifications that followed

Andrew Valianti, Staff Writer

“Believe in something. Even if it means losing everything.”

That was the tagline for Nike’s latest ad featuring controversial Black Lives Matter activist and former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick has made headlines over the past two years for his decision to kneel during the singing of the National Anthem before football games. This came in response to the recent increase in police shootings involving unarmed black men, particularly teenagers, without formal repercussion. Many Americans, NFL viewers and non-viewers alike, took immediate offense to his practice, believing it to be anti-American and disrespectful to the men and women of the US Military for whom the anthem is dedicated.

For reasons that have not been disclosed, Kaepernick ended up parting ways with the NFL. It is widely believed that the league officials thought Kaepernick’s employment was just too controversial and forced him out, but it is just as likely that he left on his own grounds, wanting to bring his message elsewhere. Nevertheless, this did not end the kneeling, as he spurred on dozens of other players to follow in his footsteps, inspired by his dedication and refusal to give in, even when his career lay on the line. Many across the nation, not just NFL players, have rallied behind him, wanting to shed light on an issue they believed the country had long-chosen to overlook rather than overcome.

After his removal from the League, Kaepernick continued to speak out against the systematic racism he believed persisted in America, becoming an advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement. There he stayed, continuing to simultaneously inspire and infuriate the American populace, until Nike stepped in.

They released the ad as a part of their new campaign to give a voice to professional athletes they believed were using their influence for the greater good. Along with Kaepernick was LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Odell Beckham Jr., all applauding Nike for their decision to include Kaepernick despite the risk it meant for their brand.

With Nike’s support of Kaepernick, they were officially taking a stance on the kneeling scandal and all of the many layers and themes behind it. This enraged many Nike customers across the nation who were staunchly anti-Kaepernick, causing a wave of videos to surface online of Nike owners burning their Nike products. Ranging from sweatshirts to shoes to headbands, it seemed those who strongly disagreed with Kaepernick, strongly disagreed with Nike for sponsoring him.

Since Nike is a brand that most, if not all, Triton students interact with in their daily lives, it seemed appropriate to ask some their opinion on the matter.

“Kaepernick isn’t helping the cause he is protesting. He isn’t offering any solution to the problems,” says Triton High School junior Tyler Godfrey. “If he wants to truly see change, he should reach out and talk with law enforcement. Wearing socks depicting cops as pigs isn’t gonna do any good.” Godfrey is an athlete himself, playing hockey in the winter and baseball in the spring, and was a former customer of Nike.

“Nike’s endorsement is their choice, but it just isn’t a good one. They basically said screw you to half of the country, which I just can’t see as a good long-term business move.”

“I think it’s really cool that he’s standing up for the stuff that he believes in,” says Kylie Lorenzo, a junior and cross country runner for Triton. “The fact that he is willing to put everything on the line is pretty admirable.”

In response to the question of whether the kneeling was the right way to go about conveying his message, Lorenzo had this to say, “If your going to do something and you want to make sure people notice then it’s go big or go home.”

Students are not the only ones with strong opinions on the controversy though. The Triton staff interact with Nike in their daily lives, same as the students, and harbor their own thoughts on the issue.

“Good For Nike,” says business teacher Mr. Richard Fisher. “Definitely gutsy, but I think it may end up positive. It’s definitely putting them out there. While, yes, some people are going to burn their Nikes, other people are going to start buying Nikes over some of the other products.”

Fisher, who teaches a wide variety of business courses at Triton, tries to educate all of his students on the importance of the Bill of Rights and the reaches to which it extends. He sees this topic, particularly the right to Free Speech, called into question frequently when the Kaepernick issue is discussed.

“I happen to think that First Amendment rights are very important,” says Fisher, “Freedom of Speech is one of the most important rights that we have and Kaepernick is just expressing it. The controversial thing with Kaepernick is that he’s expressing it at work.” Fisher does not just believe Kaepernick has the right to exhibit his free speech, however. When asked if the protestors had the right to be outraged and burn their products, Fisher said, “Absolutely. They are just expressing their First Amendment rights, same as Kaepernick.”

“Nike’s impact has really expanded recently, to the point where pretty much everyone knows about it. Almost everybody at least interacts with it, if not owns it,” says Lorenzo, and strictly based on Nike’s recent sales, it is clear that she is not wrong. Nike makes about $36 billion in sales globally each year, and the United States makes up around 40% of that, or roughly $14.5 billion. In 2017 alone, Nike sold roughly $21 billion in footwear, almost double Adidas and Puma’s shoe sales combined. With Nike taking a firm stance on the kneeling debate that has loomed over the country for the past two years, it is important that all customers take a moment and ask themselves how they truly feel on the matter. How do their opinions match up when held up to those of Nike? Is Kaepernick a hero or is he a traitor?