Putting your name behind someone who caused one of the biggest controversies of 2016 is not the route most would choose; however, Nike risked it all when they made former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, the face of the special 30th anniversary of their campaign, ‘#Justdoit’. Not only did Nike take a risk, but they refueled a conversation that was left unfinished in 2016 when Kapernick decided to kneel during the National Anthem as a way to protest racial injustice in America.
When Kapernick had the idea to use his platform as a way to speak out about a problem that did, and continues to, plague America, he initially sat on the bench during the National Anthem. After seeing this, former Seahawks player and Green Beret, Nate Bayer, advised Kaepernick to kneel during the National Anthem instead. According to CBS Sports, Bayer stated that, “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect.” and they both reached the conclusion that taking a knee would be much more powerful. After much controversy, Kaepernick was considered unhireable by any National Football League (NFL) teams.
Understanding everything that has taken place between then and now, I still believe that it is incredibly necessary to speak out against injustice of any kind. When this controversy was fresh, a lot of people argued that the football field was not the place to voice political or social views. If not in that moment, then when? America loves football, but not all of America is constantly aware of the political and social climate. The field was Kaepernick’s stage, and he used it to spark a conversation about what was taking place and what to address.
On September 8, 2018, Nike released a black and white image of Kaepernick’s face with the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ‘everything’ is Kaepernick’s career. The ‘believe in something’ is Kaepernick believing that his actions on the field would ignite change. Even though some people might view him as a disrespectful, unpatriotic, and even inappropriate former football player, Nike clearly thought that he would make a good face for the campaign because he really did “just do it.”
I believe it is important to use the platform one is given to speak for those who have been silenced, marginalized, or disrespected. Although Kaepernick’s football platform has been taken from him, it will be difficult for Americans on either side of the issue to not think of Kaepernick and the conversation he started when they are watching a game. Americans can burn their Nike gear and claim to stop supporting the NFL, but the fact of the matter is that the two are legally bonded until the year 2028. So if whenever you see that Nike swoosh and it stirs up an emotion of any kind, Nike has done their job.