Believe in Something

Making Colin Kaepernick the face of an advertising campaign is a great move for both brands: Nike’s and Kaepernick’s. Nike benefits by increasing brand loyalty from the demographic targeted with this ad, but also improves their moral standing with those who are not especially passionate about the issue of modern-day civil rights, but might support Kaepernick’s cause.

All that comes at a cost of polarizing the demographic that chooses to side against Kaepernick. This was a carefully planned business decision by Nike, a multi-billion dollar company. They would not have gone forward with the campaign if they determined it could potentially have lost them money. And indeed, they haven’t. According to Time Magazine, Nike created $43 million in media buzz within 24 hours of the story being released, most of it being either neutral to positive.

Nike has not ascended into moral godliness by way of running this campaign. However, they are doing the right thing. Getting Kaepernick, and more importantly, the issues to which he is trying to bring attention back into the spotlight is a righteous cause. Nike is taking a stance by doing this, a stance I would argue is morally reasonable.

By taking a stance in favor of Kaepernick, Nike is supporting protests against a Dallas police officer killing the unarmed Botham Jean in his own home after the officer mistook it for her home. And the death of Freddie Gray after receiving fatal spinal cord injuries in a Baltimore police car. And Michael Brown, who was fired at 12 times after an altercation with a Ferguson police officer. And Philando Castile, who was shot at 7 times after he disclosed he had a legal firearm in his car during a regular traffic stop. And Walter Scott, an unarmed man who was shot in the back during another traffic stop. And Eric Garner, who was put in a chokehold and strangled to death by New York City police officers, is a supportable cause.

Nike has the freedom to take that stance, even if I or anyone else disagrees with them, just as every corporation does.

Indeed, I think that there is a moral responsibility for every person and company to recognize the injustices committed by a small number of police officers in this nation. One cannot argue that murder is not morally wrong. There is no argument left to be made that is not morally wrong against the murders, and so those who refuse to recognize those injustices rail against Kaepernick, instead of recognizing that police officers taking the lives of unarmed black people is wrong.

Just as companies have the right to take a stance on the issues our nation faces; we as individuals have a right to respond to that stance.

Chick-Fil-A has donated to organizations that oppose gay marriage, and according to the Los Angeles Times, is openly anti-LGBTQ, which is within their rights. I can choose to boycott Chick-Fil-A, just as some are choosing to boycott Nike now. As an independent citizen I have that right.

Because of the first amendment, everyone in this nation has the right to voice their own opinions. I have the absolute right to disagree with your decision, and respond in whatever peaceful way I see fit. This means both the Nike boycotters and Nike itself are totally within their rights. The question becomes who is more effective.

Kaepernick hasn’t set foot on an NFL field since 2016, and we’re still talking about him. His activism has been wildly successful, and has brought the public eye to the injustice and racial profiling done by police officers across the nation. This ad campaign just puts Kaepernick in the public eye again, continuing the discourse surrounding racial injustice. This is effective activism.