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No Kaep: Nike stirs national buzz

Colin Kaepernick's Nike ad released on Sept. 3, 2018.

Multinational shoe company Nike has been at the center of discussion across the nation after announcing Colin Kaepernick as the face of their 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign. The caption of the advertisement states, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

The image of Kaepernick and the commercial that followed were both released days before the start of the NFL regular season, and that certainly wasn’t by coincidence. What better time to rekindle a discussion on the former NFL player who shook the league and brought about a new anthem policy, which was subsequently removed this summer?

Nike’s new campaign brought both negative and positive responses but as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. From a marketing perspective, if you can get the national spotlight, you’re doing great. Being the center of attention was Nike’s main goal in this ad, and it worked.

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Reporters, politicians and celebrities across the country are voicing their opinions on the ad, and even the President of the United States broadcast his opinion on Twitter.

“Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!” Trump’s tweet stated.

Memes about the advertisement have spread across the internet, too, often replacing the photo of Kaepernick with images of veterans with the same accompanying caption.

Many people, like the wife of Pat Tillman, have publicly asked for these images to not be used to attack Kaepernick. Tillman is a former NFL player who left the league to join the Army following the Sept. 11 attacks. He was killed by friendly fire in 2004.

Using her husband’s image to deepen the divide in the nation is the opposite of what Marie Tillman wants for her late husband’s legacy.

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“Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us,” she told CNN. “We are too great of a country for that.”

Tillman’s biographer even said that Pat “would have been the first person to kneel” and that he would’ve found Kaepernick “an extremely admirable person for what he believed in.”

Kaepernick has been on Nike’s endorsement roster since 2011; they’ve just had him shelved until now. Since Kaepernick was already on Nike’s payroll, it was only logical that they use his image for what the endorsement was designed to do: garner attention for the company.

The media coverage Nike has received across social media, television news and talk shows is a marketing homerun. Even those who disagree with the ad and manipulate the backing image still keep the essence of the campaign; the Nike logo and the “Just do it” slogan are mostly maintained at the bottom of the ad.

Nike is also looking at the bigger picture and seeking to establish themselves on the right side of history by standing behind a man who sparked a national discussion on freedom of speech and policing in America. This isn’t the first time the company has been under fire for supporting controversial athletes. For example, Nike capitalized on Michael Jordan’s controversy surrounding his colorful Air Jordan 1s that were banned on NBA courts in the 80s.

Kaepernick’s protest has never been aimed at the military, nor has he mentioned the military in any negative light. He has openly stated that his protest was centered around police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men in America. He switched to kneeling instead of sitting as a sign of reverence for the troops, which was suggested to him by veteran Nate Boyer.

“The men who have followed in Kaepernick’s footsteps say they are not protesting the anthem itself, they are demonstrating during the anthem,” Boyer said. “It’s an important distinction to understand. Personally, I do not endorse Kaepernick’s method of protest but I absolutely support his right to do so. That is an unpopular place to stand these days, in the radical middle, defending someone you somewhat disagree with. It’s OK to be different, it’s what makes us the same — embrace it and remember that nobody’s a perfect patriot, especially not me.”

The bottom line is, Kaepernick and his followers are not anti-American and they’re not anti-military. They are simply advocating for change in a country where people struggled for their right to do so. Nike recognized this and used this peaceful protest as a way to catapult their brand into a national discussion.

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