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The Nike Controversy

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The Nike Controversy

Tyler Kieft, Staff Writer

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On August 14th, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, knelt for the first time during the national anthem at their first preseason game. Such an act sparked immediate controversy, and, in response, he stated that his kneeling was done in an act of peaceful protest against the oppression of colored people in America and police brutality.

In his own words, he stated that, “I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand. This stand wasn’t for me. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.”

Much has occurred in consequence of the act, with large amounts of people joining in on the protest, the president criticizing his actions and saying anyone who kneels should be fired, and Kaepernick opting out of his contract with the 49ers on March 3, 2017.

Most recently, the controversy has reached the public eye once again, with Nike making Colin Kaepernick one of the faces for their Just Do It advertising campaign celebrating its 30th anniversary. Due to this decision, many people who disagree with Kaepernick’s choice have taken to burning and destroying their Nike products to boycott the company.

The most talked about advertisement features a portrait of Kaepernick’s face with the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”, as well as the brand’s iconic “Just Do It”.

Another advertisement featured an inspirational video of Nike’s where it pushed the concept of following your dreams and not settling for anything less than what you truly want. It featured Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, and eventually Kaepernick, where the slogan was repeated again, along with him stating, “So don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.”

This caused an uproar of angry Nike fans who began to destroy their own personal Nikes in response to the company’s decisions once more.

Starting the trend was Sean Clancy, a Twitter user who took his pair of Nike shoes and set them aflame. After he posted a video of the burning on Twitter, the vandalism of Nike products blew up and it seemed like everybody was enraged with the company. With this, the hashtag #BurnYourNikes developed.

Another example of this came from country music star, John Rich, who shared a photo of the Nike logo cut off a pair of socks that belonged to one of Rich’s soundmen. “Get ready @Nike multiply that by the millions,” said Rich, predicting that even more people would follow suit.

Donald Trump, the United States’ president, took to Twitter to give his thoughts on the matter, stating that “I think it’s a terrible message that [Nike is] sending and the purpose them doing it, maybe there’s a reason for them doing it” as well as “What was Nike thinking?”

With the backlash and boycott occurring, it was expected for this to affect Nike sales one way or another. It definitely showed, but not in the way that the boycotters probably expected. The company’s stock was down 2.5% the day after the release of the ads, but this decrease did not last long at all. In fact, Nike sales have grown by 31% in just that Labor Day weekend when compared to the previous year’s sales. Rather than boycotting and decreasing the sales, it seems that has flipped expectations, with supporters of the advertisements purchasing more Nike gear.

Among these Kaepernick supporters is CIA director John Brennan, who tweeted in defense of Colin, “He did so not to disrespect our flag but to give meaning to the words of the preamble of our Constitution – ‘in order to form a more perfect union.’ Well done, Colin, well done.”

Others simply didn’t find the boycott necessary in the slightest, including Katlin Bellaw, a Navy soldier, who stated “Stop using the troops as an excuse to burn your Nike shit. I’m not your scapegoat. I’m not gonna sit over here and continue to buy my Nike stuff, they give military a discount.”

With this controversial topic arising once more, Gino Fisanotti, the brand’s vice president for North America, recently stated that “We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leverage the power of sport to help move the world forward.” Considering Nike’s continued stance on the issue, it is unlikely that anything new will come of it from the company. However, now that it’s been brought back to attention, the debate will continue to expand.

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