It has been over two years since Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, chose to kneel during the national anthem in the 2016 NFL preseason.
Recently, Kaepernick has become a trending topic yet again. Earlier this September, Nike made Kaepernick the front face of an ad campaign that reads, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” This alludes to how Kaepernick’s decision to kneel ultimately cost him his starting position for the 49ers, leaving him as a free agent since March 2017.
While Kaepernick has been in hot water since 2016, Nike has now become a controversial topic as well, facing mixed reactions from the public. Many people praised Nike for the ad, but many others have responded negatively. Some people have even taken their thoughts to social media, posting videos of themselves burning and destroying their Nike products and stating that they will no longer be buying from Nike.
Students here at St. Cloud State University were asked about their thoughts on the ad. Jack Flavin, a sophomore says,
“I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I thought it was pretty awesome…it’s just nice to see other companies stand behind athletes. Normally companies don’t take stands when it comes to controversial issues.”
Drew Paulzine, a sophomore, added on to that saying,
“I guess I can agree with that. I know there’s a thing that came out where it said that a lot of veterans came up and said they agree in protesting with the kneeling, that it was okay with veterans and that’s what he [Kaepernick] should do…that’s what I’ve read.”
However, Johnny Hopkins, a freshman, has a different perspective,
“I think that they’re doing it to get attention, but I don’t think that’s a good thing…I don’t really support the kneeling.”
Hopkins affirmed that the action disrespects our nation and the troops. Dalton Karppinen, another freshman agrees and said,
“I feel that standing is respectful to all of those who have served in the military.”
Both Hopkins and Karpinen also agreed that the ad was getting bad attention and that people were making fun of it. When asked if they would continue buying Nike products in the future, all four students said yes.
According to USA Today’s writer Mike Jones, “The ad would further fuel the conversation about the need to fix our country’s wretched problem of racial and social injustice…that, according to Kaepernick, was the goal all along: to start the conversation on how to fix these very real problems.” Kaepernick has stated that his decision to kneel was an act of protest against the country’s racial injustice and police brutality. His decision to take a knee in 2016 sparked immediate responses from the public; while many fans applauded him, there were also many critics. Eventually, more players in the NFL began joining Kaepernick by taking a knee during the national anthem, resulting in both intensified support and backlash, which the ad has reignited.
This is not the first time Nike has promoted a black athlete; some of their most popular collaborations have been with LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Earlier this month, Nike also publicly supported Serena Williams after she received backlash for wearing a bodysuit at the 2018 French Open. However, Kaepernick’s controversial reputation does make Nike’s choice to feature him quite unique. There is even discussion about Nike’s intentioned with the ad, whether it was to take a stance alongside Kaepernick of if it was done to attract a certain audience.
Regardless, it is hardly debatable that Nike has done a successful job of making headlines and gaining attention. Since releasing the ad, the company remains successful in their sales.