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Nike and Kaepernick Want You to Believe in Something – Their Bottomline


Jemele Hill in what is probably one of her last acts as an employee at ESPN wrote an op-ed today for The Undefeated about Nike’s 30th Anniversary of the “Just Do It” Campaign that features Colin Kaepernick. In the piece, Hill speaks the absolute truth, but in doing so she unwittingly undermines the whole notion of speaking truth to power, the very thing that she supposedly did that brought her meteoric rise at the World Wide Leader back down to earth with that Trump Tweet.

She bluntly and correctly summarizes Nike’s Modus Operandi,

“Kaepernick’s new deal with Nike is reportedly worth millions and will include him having his own branded line. Kaepernick and Nike have been in business together since 2011, and despite all the controversy that has surrounded Kaepernick, the company never severed ties with him.

“Know why? Nike knows Kaepernick has become one of the most recognizable faces in America. He moves the needle. He’s become an icon. He represents the very culture that Nike wants to continue to monetize.”

Make no mistake about it, this isn’t about sacrifice or moving the needle for social justice, this is about moving sneakers.

One of the beautiful things about Kaepernick’s stance, or should I say position on social justice through the lens of police brutality is that his silent activism has spurred on an entire generation of young people to begin to think about the issue and how it connects to the capitalistic machine that is the NFL.

The Kaepernick’s legion of followers, inside and outside of football, have put a lot of pressure on the social, cultural and political arenas of the NFL all which impact its most important field of play – the bottomline.

This was all done with some aspect of the common good in mind even if that common good was as the center of the legion’s own self-interest. Their actions were not tethered to a transaction. There was no quid pro quo, no exchange of currency for goods. As a matter of fact, many of them abstained from such transactions by boycotting the NFL and their sponsors (i.e. sacrificing).

Now Nike is taking a calculated risk to see if they can cash in on that sacrificial sentiment and monetize the movement.

Don’t take my word for it, Ms. Hill says so herself,

“There is nothing wrong with Kaepernick cashing in on the platform he’s built. Without money, Kaepernick wouldn’t have the leverage or the finances to continue his commitment to social justice issues. Nowhere in the activist handbook does it say that you have to be broke to be down with the cause. That’s something Nike and Kaepernick both understand.”

If what Hill says above is really true then our democracy is really doomed. Does it really take money to continue a commitment to social justice issues? Are we better served if the Kaepernick’s followers take the money they were saving from boycotting the NFL and its sponsors and spent it on the new Air Kaps.

That’s just shunning Peter to patronize Paul. Does that sound like sacrifice to you? I guess it does if those Air Kaps cost you everything you got.

About the author

Andre Kimo Stone Guess
Andre Kimo Stone Guess

Andre Kimo Stone Guess is a writer and cultural critic from the Smoketown neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. He was VP and Producer for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh. He now runs GuessWorks, Inc. with his wife Cheryl.

Educated Guesses A Blog Full of Guesses