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This article contains opinion.

 

Nike, the sports apparel giant, created spectacular controversy this week by releasing a new advertising campaign in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the company’s “Just Do It” slogan with Colin Kaepernick as its face. 

Nike in the past has stood by disgraced athletes, as well as made moves to create controversy in marketing. While Kaepernick’s decisions have been much more positive than those of Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant, two other notable Nike athletes who stirred up trouble in the past, the Kaepernick ad may have created a more polarizing conversation. 

The slogan, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” no doubt references Kaepernick’s monumental protest during the national anthem while playing in the National Football League. 

Almost immediately following the release of the photograph, criticism came in waves. 

People began to declare boycotts on Nike, as well as posting recorded videos of Nike gear being burned and destroyed. Nike symbols were also torn off of products that people still chose to wear.

President Donald Trump, well-known for his criticism of anything and everything that does not follow his agenda, said it was a “terrible message” to send. 

However, Trump recognized that Nike “pays a lot of rent” being a tenant at Trump properties and began to take a lighter stance on the ad and its slogan, stating that “it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do.” 

Kaepernick did have support from major sports figures, such as fellow Nike ambassador LeBron James. 

The Los Angeles Lakers player, who has also received criticism from Trump, said “I stand with anyone who believes in change.” 

An image of the late Pat Tillman with the same slogan placed over it was widely circulated on social media.

 Tillman played in the NFL before joining the Army following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The former Arizona State and Cardinals player was killed in friendly fire in 2004 while deployed. 

Conservative media organization Fox News posted an article that implied Kaepernick had not known what sacrifice truly was, pointing to the veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces as those who have sacrificed (which is in no means an incorrect statement). 

In my mind, Tillman would also be an important figure to recognize in such an ad campaign. 

However, he does not have the same mass appeal as Kaepernick in today’s sports world. 

There are at least as many people that are for Kaepernick as there are against him, who are the primary target audience for Nike products. 

What people against the protests have always failed to understand is that Kaepernick, and anybody else who has shown protest during the national anthem, have not done so to disrespect America, nor to disrespect its veterans. 

In fact, it was a veterans’ association itself, along with former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks player Nate Boyer, who led Kaepernick to begin taking a knee during the anthem, recognizing its presence rather than simply ignoring it and sitting on the bench.  

At various times, Trump and other political and media figures have attempted to frame Tillman as an antithesis of the evil Kaepernick (in their eyes). 

Tillman’s widow, Marie, has said in the past that “Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together.” 

Unfortunately, this advertisement and its ongoing debate over its content and spokesman has shown us that, rather than unifying together, the country continues to disconnect at a rapid pace.

The moral of the story, though, is to always believe in something.

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