You know how Nike just launched it’s new billboard campaign with Colin Kaepernick and the line “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”? Yes, as in Colin Kaepernick the American football quarterback who protested in support of Black Lives Matter and against racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the US national anthem? Who has been without work since?
Well, I think it’s huge and beautiful. Not Nike. The symbolic lancing of the social boil that they’ve managed to orchestrate. Let’s break it down.
- Kaepernick jumped. He took a major risk. He gave up everything to do what he felt was right when he knelt. He had power; he took responsibility. And gave up his everything.
- The act disrupted things.
- Trump responded like the apricot toddler he is. We saw ugliness in the wake.
- It could’ve all stagnated there as most race and gender actions have done in recent years. We, the white masses, do a bearable 2.3 seconds of outrage, we share on the socials, then we go back to living our risk-adverse lives. We sit in our whiteness. The plight of the black doesn’t shift. And the horribleness of the blah-blah, cowering, cowardly times we straddle continue.
- But Nike held. It kept paying Kaepernick. Most brands would’ve found a way to drop him.
- Then Nike jumped. It went out bold and loud with this campaign that essentially backs Kaepernick’s bold jump.
- Nike’s act backed the disruption and in doing so…
…said “no” to the racists.
…said “f*ck you” to Trump.
….said “wake up” to the asleep-at-the-wheel masses who just want to get on with being entertained (from the couch) by a football match. BTW, I love that the campaign comes just months after Nike extended its agreement with the NFL to provide on-field uniforms for all 32 of the league’s teams, and as Kaepernick sues the NFL for collusion (to keep him out of a team).
…said “this won’t go away” and asked “what are you going to sacrifice?” to the lazy liberals who find it convenient to forget that racism is real and that to care about the issue and reasons requires commitment and nuance and action!!! And sacrifice!!! Not passive social sharing. And that black people are living out the effects of slavery (and, in the case of Aboriginal Australians, genocide) to this day. Not nice. But true…and not going away.
…said “this is how it needs to be done” to all the other corporate giants who piss about with influencers and sponsoring causes from an arm’s length distance.
Nike has done the right thing. And a beautiful thing. Yeah, yeah, it’s a multi-national sports brand that doesn’t have the squeakiest of reps. And for sure the decision was made with financial gain in mind.
But, let’s broaden a bit, because goodness things have been restricted of late. From a brand POV, Nike has gone back to its roots as the controversial defender and agitator that gets down to what matters. Nice and pleasantly consistent, for a brand.
But why do I think its actions are a beautiful thing?
For sure, the act said “yes” to the disenfranchised but righteous truth, when mostly what we’re greeted with these days is “don’t ask me if it requires me to think beyond an easy black and white scenario”. I love this. I mean, it cut through all this dumb stuff about the act being disrespectful to US soldiers and other black and white diversionary stuff.
But more than that, it said “yes” to doing something (and thusly saw Nike stick to it’s own 30-year-old slogan in a wonderfully non-cheap way…sweet relief). It was action in a painfully passive era. It spoke up. It fired up. It put a stake in ground that has been slippery and flaccid for way too long. Whatever you make of Nike and their wares, this is powerful.
This is how you care! This is how we should live! This is how we must engage! Nike believed in something (even if it’s own slogan). And followed through. Their campaign symbolically sacrificed the safety of the known. Americans are burning their Nike gear right now, a gesture that injures so many of my sensibilities, and Nike shares have dropped since the campaign was announced only hours ago. Trump has had a big fat apricot rant on Twitter. Which is, yeah, boring.
But Nike will win this. Because, as I write in first, we make the beast beautiful, we gotta jump first. And when we do – when we say to life, I’ll surrender a preference, I’ll do what it takes – you get caught and get rewarded and get carried to a better place. Always. We need leaders to show us how to do it again. Nike – smartly – saw this need in the Zeitgeist, did what it took and will be carried because we’re bored by blah and black and white and a whole lot of people doing nothing. I reckon.
You? Will you Follow Nike’s lead and wake up, fire up? Act? What will you sacrifice? Like, really?