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Nike scores biggest win with Colin Kaepernick ‘Just Do It’ campaign

Just do it?  Do what?  I’m only going to talk about this once because by the time next week comes this subject will be talked about ad nauseam.  The ‘Just Do It’ campaign from Nike just found its new poster boy in the always controversial Colin Kaepernick.  Just when the news cycles of protests in the NFL seem to fade away, Nike pulls us all right back in.  Please note that all of the opinions stated are mine and mine alone.  I respect each one of my peers here and I value all of their opinions, one way or the other.

Let’s start with Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick was the belle of the ball in the beginning of his career.  He had a rocket arm (still does) and led the San Francisco 49ers to XLVII where they lost 34-31.  After the Super Bowl loss, Kaepernick was good but was starting to lose momentum.

After Jim Harbaugh left (he used Kaepernick in all the right ways) he was replaced by Jim Tomsula.  Tomsula was clearly in over his head and the 49ers started to fade.  Patrick Willis retired, Chris Borland retired, and Kaepernick was must less efficient under new offensive coordinator Geep Chryst.

In the preseason of the 2016 NFL season, Kaepernick was in a battle for the starting quarterback spot with Blaine Gabbert.  During this heated battle, Kaepernick decided to sit during the National Anthem.  Some teammates joined him, most notably Eric Reid, and the next week he decided to kneel after having a conversation with teammate and former Green Beret Nate Boyer (we’ll get to that in a bit).

Kaepernick lost the starting spot to Gabbert but his actions spoke volumes, sparking an entire media frenzy where national media started pitting each side against each other.  The NFL got involved and it sparked a league wide protest where other teams started following suit.  It turned into the media storm it is today and continues to be a subject of controversy.

Now, here are some facts regarding Kapernick’s original intention of protest;

  • Kaepernick protested originally because he felt the American flag did not properly represent the entirety of America and felt that black people and other minorities were being oppressed
  • Kaepernick started kneeling out of respect for Boyer due to his military background
  • Kaepernick never stated that the protest was against the military, only the oppression of minorities and their unfair treatment by police officers

This is where things start to get hazy.  The media took off with this “Anti-American” display that Kaepernick put on.  If you put on CNN he was a martyr who was the greatest patriot of all time.  If you flip to Fox News, he was a traitor and one of the worst Americans in history.  For me, his intentions were different than what was being portrayed, but he was also a backup quarterback looking for as much attention as possible.  He was trying to make a difference, but he went about it the wrong way.  His biggest mistake in his conquest was wearing socks with “pigs” on them, representing the police force and shedding them in a very negative light.

Kaepernick was then blackballed from the NFL in the coming months and years, and is currently out of a job.  Many more liberal media members believe he is better than many quarterbacks in the league and should be a starting quarterback in the NFL right now.  Many conservative media members believe this was all a ploy to gain attention and Kaepernick’s skills were declining to the point where he didn’t deserve another shot at the NFL due to his diminishing skills and the huge distraction that would come with bringing him on.

The truth is somewhere in between.  While Kaepernick still has the skills to be a backup quarterback, he hasn’t played a professional football game in nearly two seasons and couldn’t beat out perennial backup Blaine Gabbert for the starting job.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve a job.  He’s being blackballed because he’s such a distraction, but swinging one way or the other is just nonsensical.

Things started to wane a bit heading into this NFL season, but of course Nike decided to swoop in on this ‘Just Do It’ campaign with Kaepernick as the poster boy.  Nike did this intentionally to get a rise out of all the conservatives in the country, more specifically President Donald Trump, and to sell their product to black youths who consume their apparel.  They’re using Kaepernick as a poster boy because they know how much controversy it will stir and staying relevant in the news cycle is a net positive, regardless of the reaction.

Once again, the two sided are pitted against each other.  You have people screaming from the rooftops that Kaepernick sacrificed his NFL career for the good of America.  You also have people burning their Nike gear because of this campaign.  There have been no discussions between the two sides on what should actually be done to help the minorities in this country.  It’s been more screaming and yelling, which is exactly what Nike and the media want us to do.  It raises ratings, profits, and draws a line in the sand on where you should stand.  This is what I think about all this;

  • As someone who has many friends in the NYPD, NCPD, etc., I don’t appreciate the socks that Kaepernick wore or the way he went about portraying his message
  • Kaepernick didn’t sacrifice much considering he was already a backup quarterback and has been paid millions of dollars to play a sport
  • He shouldn’t be compared to Muhammed Ali because Ali lost four years of his prime in boxing to stand for a cause (protesting the Vietnam War)
  • He also shouldn’t be viewed as some traitor because his message was intended to be a message of solidarity of all who are oppressed
  • Nike is taking advantage of all of this, using a controversial figure to sell shoes
  • People on both sides are being ridiculous because Nike has a history of setting up sweatshops, exploiting child labor laws and you know, being a giant corporation
  • Instead of burning their items, they should be donated to charities to help underprivileged children
  • Some of Nike’s profits from this campaign should be used to open up youth centers in inner-city neighborhoods to help get kids off the streets and into classrooms

It’s a complex issue, but at the end of the day Nike wins with this campaign.  They are a mega-corporation and know exactly what they’re doing using Kaepernick in this capacity.  They should be ashamed that they are disguising a money grab as some social awareness campaign.  They don’t care about you nor do they care about social oppression.  They care about money.

At the end of the day, maybe this campaign will lead to something positive.  However, with the political climate of America reaching a fever pitch once again, I doubt this happens.  We just all have to respect each other and hope that some positives will come out of this.  I don’t know about you, but I feel like this is going to be just another bumpy ride.

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Chris Passarelli
Football Editor - Hockey Editor - New York Islanders Lead Writer - New York Lizards Lead Writer - UConn Football Lead Writer
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