By Isaiah Reese
Elm Staff Writer
The continuous ridicule and slander of Black role models who stand for justice and stand against racial discrimination has shown its face again. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Nike recently released a new ad campaign which led to an abundance of overly dramatic reactions from Kaepernick’s critics.
Kaepernick, a former quarterback for San Francisco’s 49ers, has been the root cause of much anger among some American citizens. The former quarterback is not only known for his stardom in the Golden City, but also for his activism, sacrificing his football career to continue the fight for racial justice and fair treatment in America.
Kaepernick gained many critics — including President Donald Trump — after demonstrating his political stance against police brutally and America’s ceaseless neglect to acknowledge deeply rooted systematic racism that plagues the livelihood of non-white American citizens, by kneeling during the national anthem.
Some so-called patriotic Americans take issue with Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem. Some have even responded to Kaepernick’s political exercise by expressing their sentiments via social media. Trump took to his platform to express his feelings toward Nike’s new ad release by saying, “What was Nike thinking?” Many other individuals share Trump’s distaste for not standing during the national anthem.
Holding onto these particular sentiments — such as the one previously mentioned — is only distracting the holder from grasping the original point: to protest against the many unjust killings of African-American men and women. How can one truly stand for something that doesn’t stand for them? America continues to show us that nature of its hypocrisy.
Colin Kaepernick has truly displayed his integrity by backing these prophetic words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Following the ad campaign’s release, many have attempted to rebuke those epic words. Perhaps the most hysterical example we have seen thus far is people setting their own Nike merchandise on fire. There was one instance where someone set their own house on fire while doing so.
On the other hand, some may feel as though Kaepernick was wrong for putting so much emphasis on race. “I don’t see color,” is normally the rhetorical sentiment that comes with this ideology. However, neglecting the point of Kaepernick and neglecting the construction of race is neglecting the voices and experiences of Black and Brown people entirely. Race was never a real thing amongst man until we felt insecure and had to create a hierarchy. By doing so, the process of racialization became possible.
Notions that align with Trump’s simplistic understanding of race relations are the reason why we are in need of Black Student Unions and other minority-based organizations, to properly inform those who continuously ignore the voices of non-white American citizens.
Washington College’s Black Student Union President, junior Paris Mercier, shared her sentiment on the situation. “The ad put out by Nike means a lot to me specifically because they are continually advocating for the unpopular options in America. The clapback that they provided with instructions on how to properly burn their products was absolutely hilarious. The unbothered nature is a mood we should all carry with us when these situations arise,” she said.
Nike, however, is not off the hook. Supposedly, Nike has decided to side with Kaepernick and his stance against racial injustice. But why? Nike is no stranger to the idea of taking advantage of controversy.
The footwear manufacturing company has always strategically played off African diasporic people, art, and culture in order to increase sales. Nike has used minority groups from race to religion — such as using an Islamic woman in one of their commercials — to anticipate backlash and uproar from the public. The company has a clear understanding that controversy promotes sales, and they’re going capitalize every chance they get.
Since its latest controversial act, Nike’s sales have gone up 31 percent. Never forget that Nike has its hands dirty with their consistent use of underage children from third-world countries to work in their sweatshops. This fact is always swept under the rug, but must not be ignored.
Many believe Nike is a great humanitarian company. However, in no fashion has Nike shown true care for the greater good of the people. Nike’s main concerns are profit and remaining a power house on the market, making them a huge social influencer in today’s society. In this instance, Nike has taken the face of a man who advocates for the cessation of unjust killing of African-Americans, with the goal of selling their merchandise to those who are agents, workers, or true allies in this war against systematic racism.