Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” needs to come with an asterisk noting only if it doesn’t offend Colin Kaepernick.
For an individual who sacrificed his NFL career on the principle that symbols are powerful and one should not forget past sins, Kaepernick is on the payroll of the wrong company.
The latest Nike flap — the decidedly ugly and pandering “Fourth of July” edition of the elitist Air Max series that involve offerings of athletic shoes that cost as much as $1,000 a pair — was pulled back from retailers before they could go on sale because Kaepernick complained it glorified an era when black people were enslaved. The revolutionary-era flag stamped on the heels of the Air Max special edition sneaker — at least Nike didn’t put it on the sole of the shoe — was also deemed by Kaepernick to have been appropriated by white nationalist groups. This is news to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center of Extremism that doesn’t include the so-called “Betsy Ross” flag in its data base of hate symbols. While a spokesperson noted extremist groups have occasionally used the design, the ADL views it as “essentially an innocuous historical flag.”
Nike, of course, viewed it as a way to make money. That is until Kaepernick dissed the idea. But have no fear, as Nike would say, given the Beaverton, Oregon-based company will milk its decision to yank the shoes as being in solidarity with the politically correct movement that is spreading like a PG&E triggered wildfire across the American landscape out to destroy anything that dares stand in its way. The money they lose by pulling the shoes off the market will be redeemed by the “in-your-face” message it sends to those who view their decision as an outright political assault on American history that will reverberate with the PC folks storming the cultural barricades.
Kaepernick is right to stridently oppose slavery. To not do so is to question the basic worthiness of all humankind. But he needs to dial back his insistence that symbols that were never intended to be associated with slavery but are because of past sins and those that display them should be openly defied and shamed from the public square as well as the marketplace. That’s because if he doesn’t Kaepernick is inadvertently casting himself as a big hypocrite at best or as one who views racism and slavery based only on specific skin tones.
It may surprise Kaepernick that from just before he was born and through the time he was impressing fans of Turlock’s Pitman High with his baseball and football skills, Nike’s “swoosh” was synonymous with child slave labor as well as forced overtime and arbitrary abuse in order to squeeze as much profit out of their sneakers so they could to line their pockets and pay American professional athletics millions in lucrative endorsement deals.
Nike founder Phil Knight conceded the company just looked the other way when outsourcing shoes to factories in Southeast Asia while demanding they get the lowest possible price to maximize their profits much like how plantation owners would do. But instead of 19th century plantations Nike relied on late 20th century sweatshops where 8 year-old kids instead of playing soccer were forced to work in Asian factories for as little as 25 cents a day while working 12 to 16 hour days, seven days a week in deplorable conditions so Nike could maximize its profits.
How can you overlook Nike’s recent past and get in bed with them when they clearly benefited from slave labor yet condemn an entire nation for transgressions in terms of slavery that had largely disappeared by the dawn of the 20th century? None of this excuses racism but you might want to check around to see if other groupings of mankind by skin pigmentation haven’t suffered racism at the hands of those that belong to the groupings that Kaepernick is clearly concerned about and rightfully so.
And while Kaepernick by finding offense wherever he can even if it takes a little stretching or relying on the whipped up frenzy that can be created via social media is clearly hoping to change the heart and actions of people, he has inadvertently clouded his mission.
That said many of Kaepernick’s critics aren’t exactly elevating the debate. Aside from the police pig socks and his apparent admiration for Cuban dictators that have a history of more than questionable human rights issues, Kaepernick has never sunk into the realm of degrading name calling that some of his detractors have. You may not like his views but give him points for not just having the courage of his convictions and conducting himself with a fair amount of dignity but for also being a decent man. We are all flawed and have divergent views. We need to get over the fact everyone doesn’t see the world — past, present, and future — the same and to work toward finding common ground.
The biggest howling that is questionable when it comes to slamming Kaepernick this time around is supposedly his disrespect for American history and the flag. If anything his words are respectful of the American ideal of challenging the system and premises although rewriting history to purify it or to dismiss it so you can pick what you want out of it with laser precession and dismiss the rest to advance a PC positron is disingenuous at best.
As for supposed disrespect of the flag, look up flag etiquette that has been established over the years by groups such as the American Legion. One site that capsulizes it well is www.usaflag.org.
Yes, flag etiquette calls for you to stand when the flag is presented and the national anthem is played. But it is also clear that the flag should not be used in advertising, used on items such as cushions or handkerchiefs, be imprinted on disposal items such as boxes and napkins or be worn in clothing or athletic uniform with the exception of flag patches on the uniforms of military personnel, police officers, firefighters, or members of a patriotic organization.
By that standard where was the outrage of “disrespect” shown by NFL teams that have flag patches on players’ uniforms?
A lot of people also wear clothing with flags on them. That especially was the case on the Fourth of July. Based on flag etiquette those people — myself included — are being disrespectful as well.
Even though it wasn’t a current American flag it was clear Nike was out to jack up sales — read that make more profits — with their Air Max shoe with the intended time release of the Fourth of July weekend.
Look at it this way: Kaepernick saved those of us foolish enough to part with $105 for a patriotic pair of sneakers from disrespecting the flag and allowing Nike to make money off its transgression.
If anything he made sure Nike paid a price for that disrespect by having to eat what money they invested in the shoes by pulling them off the market
At the end of the day remember that Nike is not about inspirational sayings, patriotism or even political correctness. Nike is simply a four-letter word for “making money”.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.