The Nugget

Nike Takes a Side

John Orzechowski, Head Writer

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“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

It’s Nike’s new slogan for their Just Do It campaign. “Just Do It” has been their iconic line for thirty years, and has been previously frontlined by athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. This year’s campaign came alongside a two minute commercial featuring inspirational stories from athletes across the sports spectrum. From Shaquem Griffin, the one handed Seahawks linebacker that earned the AAC Defensive player of the year, to Serena Williams, the greatest female tennis player in the world, to Lebron James, the king of the NBA who opened a school for the underprivileged in his hometown of Akron, it’s a great ad that focuses on those who came from nothing and succeeded in more than just sports. But the last ten seconds ignited controversy because of who shows up.

Colin Kaepernick stands on a street corner and utters the words about sacrifice and how your dreams need to be crazy. Once again, this isn’t a problem in and of itself. But Kaepernick has headed a revival of one of the most controversial acts of free speech in the history of the US: refusing to stand for the National Anthem. He started by sitting during the national anthem, then he began kneeling instead, then dozens of other NFL players joined him, then he basically left the league. His actions clearly struck a nerve, as shown by the anger of countless NFL fans who have boycotted the games or cancelled their DirecTV subscriptions.

Some are annoyed that he’s preaching about sacrifice considering his final year riding the bench of the 49ers. It’s easy to fall into this mindset until one thinks about it.

Kaepernick’s sacrifice is understated. His career was on the way out when he started sitting and he was more than likely done playing any key role in the league. When he was let go by the 49ers after 2016, he couldn’t find a team. It’s impossible to say if he ever will. But he’s still technically a free agent in the league, and while he probably isn’t starting QB material, he is a better backup than most teams have now. But GMs don’t want to deal with the controversy surrounding him. They don’t want to bring that drama into their locker room and on the field. These coaches aren’t even considering him for a job he’s qualified for because they disagree with his beliefs, which is plain discrimination.

Nike almost dropped Kaepernick in 2017 due to the same controversy that caused him to be blackballed by the league. But Nike owner Phil Knight decided to take a risk. And he did piss people off; their stock dipped the first couple days after they released the campaign. But they’ve been doing pretty well since. In fact, their stock reached an all time high a week later. No matter how you feel about Kaepernick, you can’t argue this wasn’t a genius move by Nike.

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Nike Takes a Side