The Nike Controversy

How Nike’s Commercial Has Sparked the Latest Ideological Debate in the US

Source: Flickr

 

Why is football so important to Americans? What is it about this sport that makes them sit for hours on end every Sunday with a Coke and a bowl of Doritos? Like hockey for Canadians, football is a medium for the United States’ values and national identity. The Americans treat it seriously, and this passion is portrayed when scandals such as the Colin Kaepernick Nike ad arrives.

For those who haven’t seen the commercial, the ex-quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, narrates over a series of clips portraying inspirational athletes and sporting achievements that break the mold. You may recognize the line having caught the viewers’ attention, it having become an overnight internet sensation: Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.

This quote resonates immensely with Kaepernick’s own story and why this commercial is so controversial. Back in 2016, the star QB refused to take a stand during the national anthem. He was trying to raise awareness to the growing accounts of police brutality towards African Americans in the country.

Kaepernick, himself bi-racial, took this cause to heart and was willing to gamble his career to stand – or rather kneel – for what he believes in. He has also pledged a one-million-dollar donation to “organizations working in oppressed communities”.

Inspired, other players have followed Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem in response to the racism plaguing the United States.

This caused a whole debacle and since the end of his contract with the 49ers, no team has hired the talented athlete. Needless to say, Kaepernick is frustrated and is currently suing the NFL for collusion.

Deemed unpatriotic by some, and an act of social activism by others, the whole event has created a lot of controversy, and this Nike ad has done nothing but throw oil into the already roaring fire.

In President Donald Trump’s eyes, these athletes have acted in the most disrespectful fashion. In an interview, he stated that “these sons of b*tches should be fired.” The flag and anthem are a representation of the soldiers abroad fighting for the freedom of the American people, according to him. Those who echo Trump’s sentiments have gone as far as burning their Nike products to demonstrate their frustration and a new hashtag has immerged: #justburnit, a play on Nike’s slogan, Just Do It.

Others disagree and have even praised Kaepernick for his initiative. CIA director John Brennan has himself shown support towards Nike with a twitter comment. He wrote, “Colin Kaepernick drew our collective attention to the problem of continued racial injustice in America.”
Although this news has a focus on sports, we cannot ignore the underlying political parallel this debate has sparked. Since Trump’s inauguration, the United States have suffered a great divide in ideology. Whether it be in the world of sports or politics, the separation in the US is greater than ever and the Nike controversy is its most recent manifestation.

 

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Sarah Paulin
Assistant Production Manager

Originally Published in Bandersnatch Vol. 48 Issue 1 on September 12, 2018

 

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