Nike’s Latest ‘Just do it’ Campaign Stirs Controversy

By Fiifi Frimpong

Throughout professional sports, there are numerous scandals and controversies, one of the more recent ones is what’s been going on with Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick was made the face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign on September 3rd, celebrating their 30th anniversary.

The ex-NFL quarterback revealed the advertisement after tweeting a photo along with a tagline, referencing his national anthem protest that has led to him being blackballed by the league. “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” Kaepernick said.

The controversial ad aired during the first NFL game of the season on September 5th. Since then, Nike has received backlash from the public for aligning themselves with Kaepernick. Consumers posted videos displaying their anger by cutting the iconic logo off items and burning shoes.

Ben Zahn, the Mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, ordered a ban on Nike products for use at the city’s recreational facilities. The order was later rescinded after strong suggestion from his Attorney.

By making this decision, the multi-billion-dollar company divided people into feeling three different ways. Some feel that Nike is doing the right thing, siding with the activist fighting for racial equality. Others feel that the brand is becoming unpatriotic for aligning with a figure that has disrespected the national anthem, the flag, and everything it stands for.

There are also those who feel as if Nike is using Kaepernick as a pawn, exploiting a sociopolitical issue for profit.

To some, it’s clear about what Nike is trying to do with their 30th anniversary campaign. They wanted to get on the right side of history during a time where athletes are being discouraged to speak out against injustices. This is more important than signing any athlete to a sneaker deal.

Essentially, what Nike did was support the ex-49er for sacrificing his career to take on a battle that’s way more important than throwing a ball for a touchdown or tossing a ball in a hoop. For the folks upset about the campaign, it just shows that their ignorance hasn’t changed from the day Kaepernick told them why he was protesting. His message never changed. The decision to respectfully kneel derived from the social injustice and police brutality against colored people in America.

Where were these same people when reports came out saying Nike was exploiting Indonesian workers in factories? The Huffington Post put an article in 2013 claiming Nike hired high-ranking Indonesian military officers to force workers in signing a petition to agree to work for less than the country’s minimum wage.

Or, what about the 2011 report stating workers had shoes thrown at them. Not only that, but they were physically abused and called dogs regularly. Workers were fired after asking for a sick leave, and others worked for 50 cents an hour. We couldn’t get people to burn shoes back when these reports came out. Most forgot about them just in time for the next shoe release.

Nike knew doing this would make some audiences upset. However, their risk worked out in their favor. Last week, their stock price reached an all-time high, according to CBS News.

This led to the satisfaction of those who supported the brand, like Charles Newman, 22-year-old college student from the Bronx.

“It’s nice to see Nike being rewarded for doing something important,” said Newman. “Yeah, I know I’m not getting any of that money, but they supported someone who serves as a voice for our community. That’s what matters to me.”

Good things happen to those who do good. Their past isn’t perfect, but Nike got it right this time by making Colin Kaepernick the face of their 30th anniversary campaign.

Jim Ross, 20-year-old sales associate, sees Kaepernick as more than an athlete after this Campaign. “To me, it doesn’t matter if he never plays again,” said Ross. “Kaepernick is a role model. He’s symbolic figure in our communities.”

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