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The new ad for the 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" campaign features Colin Kaepernick. (Photo: Nike campaign)
The new ad for the 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" campaign features Colin Kaepernick. (Photo: Nike campaign)

Kaepernick, Nike stand together against racial injustice

A new Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick has ignited reactions from opposite sides of the spectrum, but the real issue still looms.

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When sneaker giant Nike released its new ad for the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” campaign on Labor Day, it - as one should expect - ignited strong reactions from the public.

Some were outraged, opting to set fire to their own Nike apparel and vowing to boycott the company entirely, while others praised the company for its stance and felt even more compelled to buy its products.

The ad features former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and reads, Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

The quote ties perfectly into the stance that Kaepernick has taken in recent years, but also to the political climate the U.S. is currently embroiled in.

In August 2016, as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick started kneeling during the National Anthem prior to NFL games. Despite explicitly stating his reason for the protest was to bring awareness to the disproportionate rate of police brutality and racial injustices against the Black and Brown community, many, including the president of the United States, have changed the narrative and directed it towards disrespect to the flag, the country and U.S. troops, despite the false equivalencies.

With many NFL owners agreeing and siding with the president’s view, it has caused Kaepernick to go unsigned as a free agent during the past two offseasons. Kaepernick has since filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing the league of colluding to keep him from being signed. Last week, the case was approved to reach a formal hearing, despite efforts from the NFL to get the case dropped.

Combined with the fact that the new NFL season is set to kick off this week and Nike has a contract with the league that doesn’t expire for another 10 years, the ad likely doesn’t put a smile on the face of many of the NFL owners, either.

However, Nike’s support of Kaepernick goes beyond just Kaepernick—it goes beyond Nike, or any brand for that matter. It’s about human rights. The ad is a symbol for what it often takes to make real change in the world.

When Kaepernick began his protests, he understood that not everyone would react positively to it. He understood there would likely be some consequences. It’s unclear if he believed the year he started his protest would be the final year he’d be on an NFL roster, but at the moment, that seems to be the case.

The state of protest has always been about believing in something strongly enough to risk other things, just as the ad states. It is not ideal, but often that is the situation that protesters are put in. Kaepernick chose to raise awareness about the serious issue of police brutality and racial injustice in America, and it cost him. Kaepernick simply utilized his First Amendment right to peacefully protest, and while NFL owners continue to deny any collusion to keep him from getting signed to a team, it isn’t far-fetched to believe the two are connected.

However, the backlash of Nike’s new ad coupled with continued disapproval of Kaepernick’s stance furthers the same narrative. The reactions are still not going towards the real issue at hand. As people continue to boycott Nike and monitor Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL, we must not continue to bury the issue that started all of this.

It’s about police brutality and racial injustices. Until that is addressed and work is done to help amend it, none of us win.

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