OPINION: Nike and Kaepernick — What Sacrifice?


James S. Robbins Author, Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past
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By now, everyone has heard about Nike’s new ad campaign featuring former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. For the shoe company, that means mission accomplished. The new ad ran during last Thursday’s NFL opening game.

“Believe in something,” Kaepernick’s script reads, “even if it means sacrificing everything.”

We know what Kaepernick believes in. He said when he began his NFL protests that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people” and police were “getting away with murder,” leaving “bodies in the streets.”

His comments might have caused a stir way back in 2016 when Kaepernick started kneeling, but these days, it’s the kind of message you find in everyday Democratic Party talking points.

But has Kaepernick really sacrificed everything, or even anything? By 2016, his career was stagnating. He was in and out of the 49ers starting lineup. He voluntarily entered free agency, turned down an offer from the Denver Broncos that would have cut his salary to a paltry $7 million/year and now finds himself more famous out of football than he ever was playing the game.

He is pocketing more millions from Nike and has cemented his role as a professional agitator and social critic. For a washed-up quarterback, he’s not hurting.

The NFL players who are continuing Kaepernick’s protest aren’t sacrificing either. As I note in Erasing America, “Taking a knee is cheap; making a positive difference requires more time and effort.”

If these millionaire athletes really cared about these issues, they would work for change rather than grandstand on the field. Maybe they could invest part of their fortunes in the at-risk communities they claim to represent. Perhaps they could host community dialogues between youth groups and law enforcement. They could do any number of things that would make the situation better.

Instead, the players selfishly exacerbate issues and alienate the fans without whom their league cannot exist.

The protests aren’t raising awareness anymore because after two years of this sad spectacle awareness is as high as it is going to go. What started as controversial is now just annoying. The kneeling player is a cliché, and the helpless NFL is becoming a joke. Until they put their millions where their mouth is, no one should take the kneelers seriously.

What about Nike? The company’s stocks took a three-percent hit because of the ad campaign, losing around $4 billion in market capitalization. But the stock stabilized on Wednesday, so maybe the bleeding has stopped.

Talk of a boycott and images of people burning Nike sneakers helped generate an estimated $43 million in free media, which is a win in marketing terms. Nike is obviously betting they can profit from fanning the flames of national division since their core market is among young people in the “coalition of the ascendant,” and not so much the older and more fiscally prudent “deplorables” who probably wear Trump-friendly New Balance sneakers anyway.

There is no sacrifice for Nike, just a cynical marketing ploy masquerading as idealism. Meanwhile, Southeast Asian sweatshop workers are pulling down around 20 cents per hour and working overtime to secure the profit margin needed to pay Kaepernick’s millions. That’s a lot of swoosh for the buck.

So Colin Kaepernick and Nike make money, and the kids who believe in the value of overpriced shoes and athletic gear make the sacrifice. It’s a good thing youth unemployment is at a 52-year low so they can afford it. Being that woke comes with a price tag.

Correction: Colin Kaepernick has donated to 40 different local and national organizations this year. You can see the full list here.

James S. Robbins is the author of the newly released Erasing America: Losing Our Future By Destroying Our Past.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.