The latest strides in the culture war were taken earlier this week as Nike unveiled their new advertising campaign for the 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" slogan. The ad features a closeup of Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, along with the tagline "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." It isn't hard to imagine what Nike is referring to, or the side they appear to be taking; Kaepernick, a figurehead for the national anthem protests since September 2016, was essentially blacklisted by the NFL and has been out of a job for some time. Kaepernick, along with countless athletes in different leagues, divisions, and associations across America, began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem to protest institutional racial injustice and the disparities in treatment between blacks and whites by law enforcement. While the scale of the protests was massive, the backlash seemed even more gargantuan. And the response to this ad campaign has been similar.
Our commander-in-chief responded about the way you'd expect him to: "What was Nike thinking?" That tweet prefaced a series of others disparaging Nike and the NFL. But among the most appalling reactions have been the Twitter critics calling for a boycott of Nike, sharing photos and videos of them destroying their Nike apparel, cutting off the swooshes, and burning the clothing items. This #JustBurnIt campaign is childish, hypocritical, and it signals a failure to empathize that has plagued America.
Firstly, Kaepernick's actions are reflective of a greater growing awareness of racial disparity with regards to treatment by law enforcement. He had the platform to call awareness to the issue, and he took it. His actions are those of a peaceful protest; nowhere is it mandated that we must stand for the national anthem. And his protests did, in fact, show respect for the flag:; after talking with Nate Boyer, a Green Beret, Kaepernick choose to kneel instead of sit on the bench, an action taken by soldiers across the world as a sign of respect. Choosing to boycott a brand because of their use of one person displays an ignorance of the greater issue, and overall, childishness.
Not only is it childish, it's hypocritical. Again, there seems to be widely thought that Kaepernick is spitting in the face of our armed forces. This is simply not true, as his method of protest has drawn from an action taken by members of the armed forces. He has worked with a soldier to figure out the best way to protest, yet show respect for our flag. And above all, those who have the most problem with the ad campaign are typically the ones espousing the views of a man who has disparaged one of our country's greatest servicemen.
It says a lot about the current state of affairs when there is an instant uproar because of an ad campaign that calls attention to a problem plaguing our country. Choosing to burn Nike apparel in your backyard demonstrates a serious failure to empathize with the message Nike is sending or even the greater problem. I commend Nike for moving this issue to the forefront, because it is only through addressing it head-on will we make some semblance of progress.