Colin Kaepernick is an American football quarterback who rose to national and international recognition in 2016. Colin chose to kneel on one knee during the pre-game rendition of the United States national anthem. This action was his protest against racial injustices in the United States. Kaepernick is regarded as a controversial public figure who has been lauded by some and denounced by others. On one hand, Kaepernick has been honoured by international organizations such as Amnesty International. On the other, President Trump has heavily criticized him. Interestingly, Kaepernick has not been drafted since 2016.
This week, Nike released one of its first images for its upcoming 30th anniversary campaign. The image was of Colin Kaepernick with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
In a statement, Nike said that the “campaign celebrates some of the most inspirational athletes today who have chased dreams no matter the obstacle or outcome”. The campaign will also feature Odell Beckham Jr. and Serena Williams.
This release sparked chatter across the world. Watching it unfold and continue to unfold has been both exciting and inspiring for me.
This week, I wanted to dedicate Mind Your Mouth to Nike and Colin Kaepernick – the life lessons we can learn from the brand and the man.
Stand for something
Put most people in Kaepernick’s shoes (Nikes, of course) and they would never survive. What may come naturally to some, is heart-wrenching for others. Where some people have no conscience and can sleep at night with the wrong they have done, others cannot.
Living in a small society like Barbados, people are often afraid to ‘ruffle feathers. Many are overly concerned with the constant curation of their public images and desisting from offending the “right people”. Who are the “right people”? In most instances, the people with money and power. Nike and Colin are not interested in such. Especially when being on the right side of history is on the cards.
Fence-sitters is a term given to persons who stand for nothing. They choose to ‘sit out’ and watch from the side-lines. They never have a perspective. If they have one, they rather not share it and ‘keep the peace’. In essence, they have no backbones.
History is not created by people concerned with crafting an extensive acquaintance list. History is made by the doers, the thought-leaders, the feather-rufflers.
On another pertinent note, I would like to make the point that everyone who disagrees with Kaepernick’s perspective is not a racist. Quite a few people on my Facebook page have held this view and it is an inaccurate one. Each American views the flag and the anthem differently. National pride is just as important as the freedom of expression.
In response to the campaign image, many people are currently burning their Nikes and pledging to boycott the brand.
My preference would always be given to the people burning their Nikes (personally, I would appreciate a size 9 in the off-white Nike The Ten – if you know anyone burning theirs) than a fence-sitter. At least, the people burning their Nikes are standing for something.
If we are intimidated by standing up for what is right and fear the consequences of having a moral compass, life will be very unkind to us and history will never acknowledge us.
Loyalty is a lifestyle not a word
Last year, Nike grossed $30 billion in profits. Nike does not need to have Colin Kaepernick in a campaign to sell shoes. However, history has shown that Nike is a brand that is comfortable with discomfort. Anyone remembers the controversial Charles Barkley “I am not a role model” ad?
Nike exemplified loyalty in the height of the Tiger Woods scandal. When brands such as Gatorade, Gillette, Buick and AT&T cut ties with Tiger Woods, Nike stayed. Nike was loyal. It should come as no surprise that Nike would have stayed loyal to Kaepernick.
We too can learn from Nike. Are we loyal? Do we run when our friends or family members are facing the worst of times? Does opportunity control our loyalty? These are questions we must ask ourselves.
In an era where Papa John’s Pizza company is currently distancing the brand from the founder (because they believe that he is “bad for the business”) and Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick unceremoniously resigned following investor pressure, we can see that most brands avoid controversy and controversial figures at all costs. The difference with Colin’s situation is that he stood for something positive – fighting against racial injustice. Loyalty must not be determined by opportunity but being blindly loyal is also a personality flaw.
Nike’s inclusion of Colin in their campaign is not a risk. As Sunny Hostin from The View stated, “it is not a risk. It is a stance”. When we take a stance, we are fully aware of the risk and we “just do it “anyway.
Just do it
The slogan for Nike is “just do it”. It doesn’t advocate doing it politely, with caution, or when it is popular. The slogan is plain and simple. I am sure every reader of this article can point to a time in life when we thought we were making one of the worst decisions of our lives. Fast forward; that moment can be cited as one of our best life decisions.
There is someone reading this article looking for a sign to say “yes” to a proposal, resign from their job, engage in a healthier lifestyle, be more outgoing, or start a business. I say to you, like Nike and Colin, “just do it!”