The Protest that Led to a Movement

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Nike has always been a brand that isn’t afraid to take chances. For three decades, Nike has been using advertising to address social issues happening in our country. The first ad of the “Just Do It” campaign spotlighted ageism in 1988 and featured Walter Stack, who ran approximately 62,000 miles in his lifetime. A year later, the company advocated for people with disabilities starring Paralympian Craig Blanchette. In 1993, Nike released an ad starring Charles Barkley which positioned him as more than a basketball player, and how celebrities should be held to higher standards outside of their career. Two years later, Nike launched two advertisements that tackled topics that were very hard for politicians and public figures to talk about: sexism and gay rights. “If You Let Me Play” was a very assertive advertisement casting females of all ages giving reasons to let them play sports. The gay rights advertisement starred Ric Munoz, an openly gay HIV positive runner. None of Nike’s previous advertisements got as much of an uproar as their 30 year anniversary starring Colin Kaepernick. The 30 year anniversary advertisement focused on the racial inequality happening in the United States and how there needs to be a change now.

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Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers when he decided to protest the national anthem before a 2016 National Football League preseason game by kneeling because of social injustice and police brutality occurrences. His actions ignited a nationwide debate on topics involving the national anthem, First Amendment, and race. Colin Kaepernick was later let go by the 49ers in 2017. He believed the NFL was trying to make sure no team would sign him because of all the trouble he was causing. Instead of playing football he started using his fame and appearances on national television to speak up for people’s rights. Although he stated in an interview that he did not feel like he had ever been mistreated, he knew countless other people who had and wanted to show unity with them. As an African American man, he understands personally how racial profiling and police brutality can affect people’s lives. When Kaepernick was in college, a few policemen drew guns on him and his roommate, two of the few black people in their neighborhood. The police thought they were conducting illegal acts when in reality they were just moving out of their house. His personal experiences highlight the fact that Kaepernick has credibility and knowledge about the issue of police violence and brutality.

From the beginning of Kaepernick’s protests he made it clear that he is against systematic oppression, and that police brutality is just one of the symptoms of that oppression. Police brutality against unarmed African American men is just one of the problems seen within the United States when it comes to racial inequality. Housing, employment, and health care are a few more examples of racial inequality issues seen in the United States. Kaepernick aimed his protests solely in Chicago where a vast majority of groups and individuals have been tormented by gun violence. Colin Kaepernick wanted to help create change by empowering the people and organizations that are working on doing so by speaking out to get others involved. It will take the communities and the country as a whole to come together and create the change that is needed for this society.

On September 3rd, 2018 Colin Kaepernick signed a multiyear deal with Nike which made him the face of the 30 year anniversary for the “Just Do It” campaign. Nike then released an advertisement in black and white with Colin Kaepernick’s face in a serious manner creating an emotional feeling. In the middle of the ad there is text that says, “Believe in something. Even if it means giving up everything”. This ad was targeting minorities and those of a lower class. The gender associated with this ad could be perceived for both male and female even though only a male is starred. Anyone who has a dream, and wants to pursue it no matter what circumstances, can benefit from this ad. The release of the ad brought up all of the old arguments that had been going on regarding Colin Kaepernick’s original protest.

All of the people offended by Kaepernick’s actions instantly became outraged with Nike. There are many videos on various social media platforms of people destroying their nike products in disgust. Before this ad was seen it seemed as if the topic of Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem had died down, but as soon as the advertisement was released, Kaepernick’s name was right back on top of the discussion board. This time, things were a little different because Kaepernick had the support of a multi-billion dollar company by his side. No matter how much we talk about the racial inequality problems that Kaepernick proposes, there will still always be more that can be done.

I myself own consumer goods from Nike, but I never imagined my clothing and shoes to mean something more than what they are. Ever since Colin Kaepernick and Nike came together to spread a message about racial inequality and police brutality I’ve realized the clothing I wear on a regular basis has a meaning. As others were burning and throwing away their Nike products after the release of this ad, I felt more grateful to be able to wear their gear and take part in spreading the issue just by wearing an article of clothing.

When it comes to the topic of racial inequality, most of us will agree that there are concerning issues, but we aren’t doing much to change the problem. With Nike partnering with Colin Kaepernick they are telling us there needs to be a change now. There should be no racial conflicts in the United States in today’s society especially with the amount of diversity our country comes with. After analyzing this text, I truly support Colin Kaepernick and the sacrifice he made to take a stand for something he believes in. Nike also created a commercial with Kaepernick involving the “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”. The commercial is very moving as people are sacrificing their time and energy to becoming someone they dream of being.

For instance, the commercial features a young wrestler with no legs, and a football player with one arm working hard to become what they’ve dreamed of being even if they have a setback. Lebron James is also featured in the commercial for being more than an athlete. Nike promotes how he is also known for his community acts and creating the “I Promise” school which provides free education for children. For some, this ad may be confusing if they have no background knowledge of the situation with Colin Kaepernick, but the concept still gets across a good point that many can relate to. If you believe in something, you should be passionate about it and do whatever it takes to reach your goal even if it means sacrificing everything. Colin Kaepernick has very little chance to ever suit up in uniform again, but he is content with that because he wants to be known as more than a football player. 

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The Protest That led to a Movement. (2022, Feb 02). Retrieved December 9, 2022 , from
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