If you're anything like me, you've checked social media in the past week. Which also means that you've seen Nike's announcement that former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has become the face of their "Just Do It" ad campaign. Nike launched their "Just Do It" campaign in 1988 and is known for using the faces and talents of famous athletes to promote their products. However, their choice to make Kaepernick the next face of their campaign has caused the company an obscene amount of backlash on social media, as well as causing Nike a 3.5 billion dollar market cap loss on Tuesday.
Why the outrage, you ask? Well, on Kaepernick's end, the criticism is nothing new. In August of 2016, the quarterback opted to sit during the national anthem before one of the 49ers preseason games of that NFL season. Kaepernick sat during the anthem for two games (August 14th and 20th), before his protest was noticed on national television on August 26th. Viewers all around the country immediately began to antagonize Kaepernick for disrespecting The United States and our troops--a valid thing to be angry about. But after the game on August 26th, Kaepernick told the media that he was not sitting to protest America, our troops, or our veterans. He was sitting to protest police brutality and America's oppression of people of color. He was using his voice to amplify the struggles of those who had no voice.
When U.S. Army veteran and former Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer caught wind of Kaepernick's protests, he wrote a piece for Military Times, taking his stance on the issue. Kaepernick met with Boyer before The 49ers next game, and the two of them decided that kneeling would be a more respectful way of protest for Kaepernick, rather than sitting. From that meeting, onward, Kaepernick took a knee for the anthem at every game up until March, when he decided to leave The 49ers and become a free agent. Kaepernick has reiterated many times that he is not kneeling to protest or disrespect America or any of its citizens--in fact, he's doing it for quite the opposite reason. Kaepernick said in 2016 that he kneels "not take away from the military, not take away from pride in our country but keep the focus on what the issues really are...because there are issues that still need to be addressed and there was also a way to show more respect for the men and women that fight for this country."
Regardless of his reasoning, many Americans still believe that Kaepernick's protest is still disrespectful and anti-American. Many have talked over the past two years of boycotting the NFL, and now feel as if they must boycott Nike. And Americans, boycott if you must, but if you say that you are boycotting in order to defend and support America's veterans, please choose to boycott in a way that can help those veterans. Many of them are homeless--in fact, in January 2017, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reported that 40,000 of our veterans were experiencing homelessness. And truthfully, that number is not going to go down because you choose to burn your Nike shoes or clothes for their sake. Instead of posting videos on Facebook of you throwing your Nike belongings into a fire pit, or cutting their logo off of your clothes, donate them to our vets. I promise they won't care about the brand of the clothes. They will be happy to have any to begin with.
Many veterans have spoken out about Kaepernick's protest. While they might not be angry or offended over Kaepernick's choice to express his First Amendment rights this way, you may be. But please don't burn your clothes and shoes. Vietnam Veterans of America is a veterans' charity that will come to you and pick up your unwanted Nike items. DonationTown will also come to collect your items, as well as allowing you to choose which charity your items are donated to. Goodwill. Salvation Army. Anywhere. Socks are currently the most requested clothing item from our homeless. Don't burn yours. There are opportunities for you to protest and boycott Nike if you feel led to, but there are also endless opportunities for you to help the vets that you are defending through your boycotts. Think twice before you burn your belongings.