Capitalism and activism collide in Nike ad

Staff Editorial

When Nike chose Colin Kaepernick to be the spokesperson for their “Just Do It” campaign, they knew they were taking a risk. 

As individuals who have supported Kaepernick’s movement since the very first kneel, our initial reaction to the advertisement was very positive. We were pleased to see him back in the news, continuing to spread his message. Kaepernick deserves an outlet to expand his activism, and Nike gave it to him. But the advertisement also made us contemplate Nike’s intentions. 

Take a second to step into Nike’s shoes. Look at the advertisement from their eyes. What exactly were their motives in choosing Kaepernick, as opposed to a more widely-respected figure? Did they really want to endorse his movement? In a society that–let’s face it–revolves around money, it seems unlikely that this was their intention. Although it’s a hard pill to swallow, Nike’s true intentions are clear. 

Nike wasn’t attracted to his movement; they were attracted to his controversial position. Nike wanted to create a buzz around their brand and get people talking, throwing themselves back into news headlines. They simply wanted attention. And what better way to get attention than signing one of the most widely-disputed figures in America? 

Nike’s risky decision paid off–literally. After the commercial first aired on Sept. 6, Nike saw a 31 percent increase in online sales, according to Time magazine. The advertisement was great for Nike financially, but they missed the point of Kaepernick’s goals. 

Although they gave him a platform to voice his opinions, Nike had no interest in helping Kaepernick’s movement. They viewed his message as an opportunity to make money, and a chance to profit off his struggles. Any desire to bring change was greedily overshadowed by the chance to make money. 

Kaepernick’s activism was turned into Nike’s capitalism, and it went over everyone’s head. We all rushed to Nike stores across the country, determined to show our support by purchasing their products. Even on the other end of the debate, opposers of the advertisement burned their Nike apparel, boycotting the company. Whether we thought we were supporting Kaepernick or opposing him–it didn’t matter. 

In the end, we were all just helping Nike by feeding to the attention they so desperately wanted. Their signing of Kaepernick was nothing more than a publicity stunt, designed to economically benefit the company. Be careful not to mistake Kaepernick’s movement with Nike’s campaign. They are two entirely different messages based on drastically different morals, with conflicting intentions.  

Don’t get me wrong–it’s great that Kaepernick has a platform to further his campaign against racial inequality in America. It’s an important message that needs to be heard repeatedly. We’re not attacking Kaepernick’s message, we’re attacking Nike’s motivation for using his message. The use of Kaepernick in their advertisement was greedy, and if Nike wants to prove otherwise, it’s on them to do more. 

Nike needs to actually do something, rather than just promoting Kaepernick in a blatant attempt to make money. Do something for injustice in America. Do something for police brutality. Do something with the billions of dollars your company owns. Colin Kaepernick isn’t just a trend you can use when you need attention. He’s a man, and more than that, he’s a message. If you want a piece of his popularity, you need to promote why he took a knee in the first place.