“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.”
This is the slogan on a new Nike ad featuring former Colin Kaerpnick, former NFL quarterback who was the first in the NFL to kneel during the National Anthem as a protest. The ad is on a new marketing campaign from Nike as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of their famed “Just do it” slogan.
There are varying opinions on football players kneeling. In general, most Americans do not support this and see it as offensive and disrespectful. 63 percent of people responded unfavorably in a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University.
But I feel like we should all agree that he most certainly did not “sacrifice everything.” People go off to wars and die. But Colin Kaepernick is in an ad for a shoe company that says he “sacrificed everything?” People in other parts of the world stand up to barbaric dictators and pay with their lives (and sometimes the lives of their own families). But Colin Kaepernick not playing football anymore is him sacrificing everything.
Kaepernick has far more fame and notoriety for his protest than he ever would have had for being an ok NFL quarterback. He made millions playing football.
He’s going to make millions with Nike. According to the New York Times: “Nike will produce new Kaepernick apparel, including a shoe and a T-shirt, and if the merchandise sells well, the value of the deal will rival those of other top N.F.L. players, according to people close to the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because Nike had not formally announced it. Nike will also donate money to Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights” campaign.”
I think it hurts the cause. Sports writer Jason Whitlock, who’s been critical of Kapernick’s protests commented: “Told y’all from Day One this has always been about the money. All of it. Revolutionaries aren’t sponsored by major corporations. It’s been a hustle from the giddy-up.”
I agree with Whitlock. Gandhi wasn’t saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world. Obey your thirst.”
I think Kaepernick cashing in on his protest (first of all, that totally undermines the idea of sacrifice) hurts his message. He’s trying to address real issues and he’s going to attach his name to an apparel line? Obviously that’s his right too. But it also makes him look like a corporate shill.
It doesn’t seem to be a very successful means of rallying support to a cause or advancing a public discussion on the issues. A lot of Americans find the display disrespectful and offensive. And that’s fine. You can do something that offends people. But then what’s the end game for actually being an agent of change? If you turn off people whom you’re trying to reach and they don’t want to listen to the message, how do you achieve anything?
These are complicated matters and there are a number of thoughtful opinions. The issue for me has never been kneeling for the national anthem. My biggest issue is that he’s getting treated like he’s some sort of martyr. Kaepernick has certainly received lots of criticism for his protest but many also celebrate him as a hero, he’s been given a huge platform, and he’s going to profit greatly off of this. This isn’t what it looks like to sacrifice everything.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.