Our View: Speaking up is worth the risk

Nike’s new ad campaign, featuring famed NFL football player and protestor Colin Kaepernick, has sparked national outrage. The ad features Kaepernick’s face with the text, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”, overlaid. It commemorates the brand’s 30-year anniversary launch of the “Just do it”, campaign. The debut of the ad, just days before the official kick-off of the NFL season, has been met with polarizing backlash.

The Carrier covered the controversy over NFL kneelings in an issue last year, and the sentiment spoken then still holds true. Kneeling during the national anthem, like any other form of expression, is protected by the first amendment, which was fought for and defended by the military. So, to assume that kneeling is disrespectful is to say that we shouldn’t practice the rights which those in the armed forces and veterans have sacrificed so much for us to be able to practice.

It seemed as though this controversy had mellowed out a little bit. At least, it wasn’t on every front page and every featured news story. However, as soon as the debut of the Nike ads came about, the issue resurfaced in full force. Now, Nike has been met with backlash from a number of critics who have disliked Kaepernick from the beginning.

Now, four years after Kaepernick began his silent protests, the water is continuing to rise. Kaepernick has had a deal with Nike since his entrance into the NFL in 2011, according to The New York Times. His affiliation is nothing new; it’s the ever- tense social and political climate which has continued to grow.

Nike’s deal with Kaepernick, which includes a shirt and shoe design, banks on the idea that Kaepernick is more than an athlete. By now, the NFL player has become a sort of social icon. Using him as the face of their advertisement was a bold move, one which has caused some consumers to burn their Nike products and others to rally in support of the company and the athletes. Many proclaimed that the company would suffer from the decision, supporting the social media movement of #NikeBoycott. However, according to data from Edison Trends, the company’s online sales jumped 31 percent.

This sort of thing has happened time and time again. National brands have chosen to endorse, outwardly or discretely, public figures and issues which often prove as risks to them, as seen in the outrage following the Kaepernick advertisements.

Through this ad campaign, Nike is shedding light on a social issue that continues to be brushed under the rug by politicians. Some argue that the consumer world and the political world should remain separate, that retailers should not be making such dramatic or controversial statements. However, if they don’t contribute to the conversation, who will?

Politicians mainly play the safe game of avoiding serious conflict, trying to keep their image, and their hands, clean. To have an opinion on controversial topics seems to be political suicide, prompting those in office to steer clear of meaningful conversations and action. However, corporations seem to be picking up the slack. From the beginning, Kaepernick’s silent protest was to bring awareness to police brutality toward minority citizens. His actions brought about discussion, which gave room to educate and inform. However, his actions seems to have bypassed those who truly needed to understand. No action was taken, no resolution was brought about.

As consumers and voters, we should want the companies and politicians we support to be outspoken. Controversial issues in our country aren’t slowing down. We live in a world of injustice and inequality, sadly that does not appear to be changing. However, the best way to handle those faults of ours is not to disregard them. They need to be talked about. National companies such as Nike maintaining the conversation is an amazing start, but it can’t stop there. Social rhetoric won’t always be pleasant, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist.

The Carrier’s editorial opinion represents the views of the senior members of the Campus Carrier and Viking Fusion news staff.

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