TAKING SIDES: Should Colin Kaepernick be in Nike’s latest ad?

December 8, 2018

Colin Kaepernick’s actions empowered a movement

Ani Zakarian

By now most people have already seen the iconic Nike advertisement released on September 5, 2018. Nike’s release of the ad was surprising to the general public and has prompted some controversy.

Most people know that Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback, has been taking a knee to protest the mistreatment of people of color by the police and police brutality in America.

Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem was seen by many Americans in minority groups as a sign of hope and empowerment at a time when it is needed within the country.

While Nike received a lot of backlash from the right wing community for its decision to release this ad, it has also brought the company benefits such as a 31% online sales increase and a huge increase for in store sales according to an article by Time.

The company made a smart business choice, knowing that ultimately the positive benefits they reaped from choosing to stand in solidarity with those protesting would outweigh the negatives.

While I firmly believe it is important for major corporations such as Nike to make political statements to the best ability that they can, I also believe it is important to also take a look at these companies’ histories.

When companies take a political stance it not only validates people’s ideas and the work they have done and continue to do towards advancing progress on certain issues, but also sparks interest in the issue for those not already aware or involved with it. However, it is important to also understand companies’ motivations for speaking up.

In the case of Nike, the company has a history of poor treatment of workers in the developing world and of paying their factory workers close to nothing to live off of. In the mid-1990s wages were around 20 cents an hour in Vietnam and workers performing 70 hour work weeks was not uncommon.

Since then, wages in Vietnam have gotten slightly better. However, some places in developing countries are still unreasonably low. In South Africa and Egypt, for example, workers only get paid $31 to $32 a month.

In light of Kaepernick’s partnership with Nike some of these allegations have been brought back up and since confirmed. Although, Nike is brave in choosing to partner with such an inspirational man, at the end of the day they are still exploiting labor to maximize profits for shareholders.

Powerhouse corporations have had such a huge impact on Americans. Companies that sell things such as clothing, shoes, phones, and accessories shape how we view ourselves and how we view others. We find ourselves starstruck when a major company makes a political stance, especially one that we agree with.

Nike partnering with Kaepernick is a good start for the company in the right direction as their stock price is at an all time high and sales are doing well. However, it is important to keep in mind that beneath their thin veneer of social justice they are just another capitalist company with a bad reputation of exporting labor trying to make a profit.


Colin Kaepernick’s inclusion in the ad is ironic

Konstantin Ditc

Nike’s signing of Colin Kaepernick is the most ironic piece of advertisement in history — and the conversations around it are just as full of hypocrisy. Kaepernick, of course, is the failed NFL quarterback who stayed relevant by kneeling for the national anthem and now this is his newest spin.

To start off, let’s break down the slogan: “Believe in something.” That, by itself, is not any good, because it is only worth it to believe in the right thing. Most Americans do not believe that the anthem is an issue worth politicizing — and 54% believe it is wrong to kneel as a form of protest according to an article by NBC News. Kaepernick also never provided evidence as to why it is right to kneel for the anthem — because, in fact, there is none.

The use of Colin Kaepernick’s image and the words “Even if it means sacrificing everything” on the same page is the most controversial part of this ad campaign. Colin, by himself, has not actually sacrificed anything. He was adopted at a young age by a family that was well-off and was given the opportunity to play football at youth and high school levels. Now, he is better off than anybody else, getting paid millions of dollars and appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated despite being irrelevant to sports for two years.

This ad combined with the fact that Kaepernick wore socks that depicted cops as pigs is a slap in the face of law enforcement. There is one group of people for whom an appearance in this ad would be relevant — law enforcement. They are the ones making the ultimate sacrifice every day, risking their lives to protect us.

The video portion of the ad depicts a number of individual athletes’ stories, ranging from Serena Williams and LeBron James to a one-handed football player and a wrestler without legs. The ad is beautiful and shows all of the great things that are possible in America, a country where anybody can truly become anything. In contrast, Kaepernick claims that America is a terrible place where black people are at the constant risk of being shot for no reason by its police force. By choosing the most un-American person to narrate the message, Nike defeats the whole purpose of their commercial.

The conversations surrounding the ad have also been pretty ironic. If people burning their Nike products is blatant stupidity, the response from the other side is even more ironic and hypocritical. Leftists went from slamming Nike for exploitation of their workers to praising the company simply after they made Kaepernick the new face of the brand. I think this is called being “woke.”

Though Nike is given a temporary pass, this is still an openly profit-driven move. The corporation’s hope is that enough people would be angered by the others’ response that it would compensate for any potential losses. The same people that oppose corporations on the basis of their large profits are the ones praising Nike, bringing them more profit.

And let’s be clear about this: the whole campaign is aimed mainly to slap President Trump in the face. No doubt that if the President never commented on the anthem issue, we would likely forget who Kaepernick even is. Trump, however, believes that this is a culture war worth fighting. He is not wrong. Since most Americans are not on board with Kaepernick these discussions will only boost the President’s low ratings. In the end, this is virtue signaling of the highest order. The company could have chosen about a million different people to be the face of the ad — there are actual brave war veterans playing in the NFL — but this is the world we live in today.

Sports and corporations have officially become politicized, and we ought to ask ourselves: Is this what we really need?


Taking Sides is a recurring feature in every issue of Blue Prints. Arguments will not be written by editors or necessarily staff writers. The page will consist of a question or topic with two opposing responses.
The question for the next issue is:

“Should photo identification be required for people to vote?”

Any student interested in arguing either side of this question should direct message Blue Prints on [email protected] It does not matter if students have written for Blueprints before.

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