What the Hell was Nike thinking? As if there are not enough controversies and self-made outrages erupting all over the front pages of our newspapers, Phil Knight’s successors (whoever they are) apparently decided the sports pages were too quiet when it comes to fabricated drama. So they delivered some, and in the process, crapped all over a pretty significant portion of their customer base.
Nike’s 2018 “cover man” for the new NFL season’s advertising blitz is Colin Kaepernick, currently a man without a team who has played exactly as much professional football in the past 21 months as my cat Atticus. Which is quite a feat, considering that while CK is healthy and (somewhat) capable, Atticus is 12 inches tall and has no thumbs.
It has been speculated that by putting CK’s face all over Nike’s promotional material with the caption “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” that millennials and other “socially conscious” consumers will rush out and buy up anything that is branded with that omnipotent “swoosh” logo, all in an effort to further “stick it to Trump” and everyone else who “doesn’t get” CK’s 2-year-old protest.
No need to rehash “the protest,” but in the interest of those who may be reading this as a found artifact 100 years from now, CK started all this silliness in 2016 when he decided to “take a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem as his way of drawing attention to what he believes is out-of-control police brutality towards men and women of color in America.
Sounds like a great injustice deserving of a protest… but more on that point in a moment.
There is talk of a consumer boycott of Nike, and many conservative fans have taken to burning any and all of their Nike brand team apparel. While I have never been one to call for — or organize — such boycotts, I have decided in response to this completely unnecessary marketing decision that I will not further purchase Nike products.
Although as a 53-year-old white guy Nike does not count on me to purchase much of their gear, their consumer product gurus must have missed the fact that I am the one who buys most of the team apparel worn by my 9-year-old son and his mom. Not to mention all kinds of team stuff for my 27-year-old daughter, my dad, my brother, my nieces, and the aforementioned Atticus the Cat. Even Shelly the Turtle and hermit crabs Hudson and Sunny have Steelers stuff adorning their habitats.
All bought by me.
While I won’t be burning any of the Nike stuff, I won’t be buying any more of it. Not unless Nike sees the err of their ways and reverses course.
And this is not about “freedom of speech”; this is about the hideous inability of CK and his supporters to understand there is a time and a place to make such an important statement, and doing it during a time reserved to honor the American Ideal is not it.
Just like the often disruptive and morally repugnant Westboro Baptist Church protesters have spectacularly chosen the wrong venues and inappropriate times to demonstrate against sin, CK and his sympathizers need to understand that they have done the exact same thing.
I say that if the United States military, the U.S. Postal Service and every Federal law enforcement officer wearing a badge in this country can be prohibited from making overt political statements while on duty, then as a private business owner you sure as Hell can demand that any employee under your authority refrain from such activity while representing his company on his time. Of course, that includes taking a knee to “protest” during the playing of our National Anthem. That the NFL owners didn’t spot this as a problem and jump on it immediately shows an astounding lack of understanding of their fan base.
What bothers me so much about all this is the total disregard CK and his small band of sympathizers (less than 5 percent of the players in the NFL have taken a knee in protest) have for the real financial damage that has been done to their bosses, the league and their own fanbase. And while they apparently “don’t care,” there is little they do within their own communities and on there own time to bring attention to the problem they are supposedly protesting. To CK’s credit, he has maintained a high profile in that struggle, but there are virtually no events or protests staged by other players in their respective hometowns and team cities.
These men are bold taking a knee when they are wearing their team logo on national TV, during a moment that is supposed to be reserved for solemn respect and reflection, but where are they after the cameras turn away? Where do they go to protest, march and picket against the specific oppressive police policies and departments they claim to stand against?
Instead of insulting the American Ideals celebrated when we play that anthem, why don’t the protesting players take a knee in street clothes outside the City Halls of Baltimore, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles or other communities where police misconduct is rampant and historically notorious? Such an event might actually take an effort, but I bet the protest would get better press coverage and more importantly, a better response from the dwindling NFL fan base.
So, does Nike sell more stuff by making CK their poster child? We have no idea where this will end up, but I can tell you someone is going to have to pick up their game to replace all the money I have been spending. Damn shame. Thank goodness my official Reebok Steelers jerseys are still in great shape; they are definitely going to have to last me a while.