With Nike being one of the biggest sporting brands in the world, anything that they do is documented worldwide and their products are forever flying off the shelves. Their sneakers are top of the range, and many athletes and famous sports personalities are seen wearing Nike sportswear. Nike’s recent plans to unveil a new sneaker hasn’t followed through, however, all thanks to the sportsman-turned-activist, Colin Kaepernick. Read on to find out what Kaepernick did to convince Nike to halt their plans in launching their new product and why he chose to do it.
Kaepernick, born in Milwaukee in 1987, is a former quarterback-turned-activist who is known for his political activism regarding systematic racism against African-Americans. The thirty-one-year-old played college football for the University of Nevada. After graduating, he was selected by the San Fransisco 49ers in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In 2016, during the 49ers third preseason game, Kaepernick began kneeling during the US national anthem prior to games, rather than standing as is customary. Speaking in an interview in 2016, Kaepernick said: “To me, this is something that has to change, and when there’s a significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Kaepernick later said that he “couldn’t show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He opted for kneeling over sitting, however, as a sign of respect for the men and women who fight for the United States. His teammate, Eric Reid, soon began to kneel beside him, alongside other teammates such as Antoine Bethea, Eli Harold, Jaquiski Tartt, and Rashard Robinson. Initially, the NFL released a statement claiming that players were only encouraged, and not required, to stand during the national anthem.
But, in 2017, Kaepernick became a free agent. No team would offer him a contract, and, in October of that year, he filed a grievance against the league, accusing team owners of colluding to keep him signed. After Kaepernick’s attorney stated that “athletes who protest peacefully should not be punished”, public backlash mounted until team owners declared that all team personnel on the field must “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.” If any team members where caught kneeling during the anthem, the team would be fined and the decision would be upon the team leader whether or not they punish that particular player. This did not sit well with the players, nor did it with the rest of America.
For the thirtieth anniversary of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign in September 2018, Colin Kaepernick was used as the frontman of the global phenomenon, along with the headline: “Belief in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The “sacrifice” is clearly in reference to his kneeling protests that resulted in him not being able to participate in the sport anymore. The fact that Nike used his image and beliefs to promote their brand is a huge step forward for the rights of black Americans and the racial injustices that still go on to this very day. Kaepernick’s influence over the sports giant was made very apparent.
Nike designed the sneakers in aid of this proud day, in which the sneakers would have sported an early edition of the American flag with thirteen stars from the American revolution. also known as The Betsy Ross flag. This flag was also a symbol in the American Nazi Party. It was intended to be a colorway of Nike’s popular Air Max 1 sneaker. According to The Wall Street Journal, Kaepernick complained to Nike and said that the flag that was featured on the ankle of the sneakers had a connection to slavery and he felt that it caused way too much offense. Nike had released a preview of the sneakers, but they have since very quickly taken them down from the internet – but, of course, people managed to get their screenshots in before they disappeared forever.
But they very quickly asked for the products to be sent back. A Nike spokesman told The Wall Street Journal: “Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag.” They removed the sneakers from the market within days of Kaepernick’s complaint, but the people of America certainly weren’t happy about this. Thousands of people took to social media to express their criticism over his actions and of Nike’s removal of the sneakers. Pastor Greg Locke even tweeted a frustrated video captioned: “SHAME ON YOU NIKE.”
This Twitter-user made the bold statement that Nike practice “child labor” and “terrible working conditions overseas,” which is an extremely serious accusation to be making via social media. Robby Starbuck branded Nike as an “absolute joke,” and called them out for “disrespecting our flag on Independence Day.”. Amongst the vast amount of hate and disagreement, Kaepernick has people agreeing with his views on using the Betsy Ross flag as fashion design, and many have praised him for standing up for his beliefs despite the hurtful comments that have been thrown his way. Kaepernick’s famous motto, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” has clearly been represented through his own, and Nike’s, actions in this situation. Despite the backlash that he has already received, he believes that the sneakers represented something that was offensive, something that needn’t be remembered, so he was simply standing up for what he believes in.
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