Colin North on Colin Kaepernick

Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., and Rafael Nadal. These are just a few of the athletes Nike has affiliated itself with and subsequently sponsored over the years, and in fact are some of the best athletes of all time. Now, as many have since seen, a new Nike sponsorship was announced in the form of an advertisement. This was on September the fourth, and over the course of three days, Nike’s stock, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), has dropped quite suddenly, and seems to be continuing to do so, down 4 points at the moment. Why is this? Well, it’s quite easy to see this as a direct result of Nike’s new ad. The advertisement is primarily focused on Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, an ex-NFL player who’s been out of the league for two years, led the San Francisco 49ers to a 2-10 record in his last season, being ranked number 20 of 32 in the 2016 season opening quarterback-ranking and statistical analysis conducted by ESPN sports analysts. Something doesn’t add up here. Hardly comparative to some of Nike’s more prominent athletes who have been considered to or actually have been the greatest of all time— depending on who you are — in their respective sports, Kaepernick is not close to a sports legend. Aside from having what many believe to be “nice hair,” his athletic prowess does not seem impressive enough thus far to warrant a mass advertising campaign.

The ad opens with a black screen which has the Nike logo superimposed onto it, and suddenly it cuts to Colin Kaepernick who encourages everyone to “Believe in something. Even it if it means sacrificing everything,” ending the ad with the classic “Just do it,” Nike’s iconic catchphrase. Considering this quote and the fact that many know Colin Kaepernick due to his controversial political ideologies, it is obvious that Nike is advocating for the ex-quarterback and his ideas through this ad. Without going into depth about Kaepernick’s ideas, it will suffice to say that they have split the country and many were unhappy with Nike’s decision to support him. What I truly want to focus on is how Nike and many other 21st century industries use their power to push political agendas.

Not to say that this is not their right, after all, the beauty in capitalism in the United States is largely due to the freedom of choice allocated to business owners, but it often seems enjoyment is taken out of non-political industries by enforcing political beliefs.

Take, for example, the Oscars, which are meant to solely be about honoring film and entertainment. Instead, they have recently declined in ratings and quality because of what many consider to be outlandish political beliefs and moral standards forced upon the rest of America, when, in reality, many of the issues stem from them to begin with. Nike, in supporting Kaepernick, has taken a non-sports focused outlook, and is using these ideas to make themselves seem more politically progressive in a ploy to win sales, therefore, corrupting much of what made it a great brand to begin with.

Looking forward, Nike can continue to act in this fashion, but as reactions show, it will likely lead to their downfall in that they are dividing customers and making a statement against the beliefs of certain consumers. Whether this leads to a fundamental change in what Nike stands for, or the literal downfall of the company in loss of profits, it is nonetheless an unfortunate one.

– Colin North ’20

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