The NFL season has just begun, and the league has already found itself knee-deep in controversy (pun intended). The ever polarizing Colin Kaepernick is back in the headlines yet again, this time regarding an ad published by Nike featuring his photo and a slogan reading, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The slogan (a reference to Kaepernick’s ostracization from the NFL) and the ad in general have revived the argument over whether or not NFL players should be allowed to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.
In the past, President Trump has been incredibly critical of the kneelers, referring to them as “sons of bitches” in an Alabama speech last September. Naturally, Trump made his feelings known yet again following the Nike ad release, saying of the ad on twitter, “Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!” Trump’s rhetoric has inspired many of his supporters to burn Nike items in, however ironically, their own protest of what they believe to be NFL players disrespecting, not only the American flag, but the soldiers who fought for it.
When I first wrote an article regarding the Kaepernick issue, I addressed the backstory as to why Kaepernick was protesting in the way he was. While this is not the main issue at hand in this case, I feel as though it is still essential to the narrative, so here is a brief synopsis. During a preseason game on September 1, 2016, Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem for the first time in protest of police brutality in America. However, this was not Kaepernick’s first protest. In previous preseason games, he sat during the anthem instead of kneeling, an action that went largely unnoticed by the media. However, the sitting did draw the attention of Seattle Seahawks long snapper and former Green Beret Nate Boyer. Boyer met with Kaepernick and advised him to kneel in future protests, as soldiers kneel in front of fallen soldiers’ graves as a sign of respect. This gesture was meant to prevent controversy and to allow Kaepernick’s message to be the sole focus. This, of course, was not the eventual outcome, as the media eventually caught on to Kaepernick’s protest, which incited outrage from many, NFL and non-NFL fans alike, claiming Kaepernick, and others who followed suite were disrespecting the military and the flag by kneeling. Fast forward a few months Kaepernick had been cut by the 49ers, but the protest he started remained. The protests even caught the eye of President Trump, who called those who knelt during the anthem “sons of bitches” at a rally in Alabama. In response to Trump’s vitriol, the number of NFL players who knelt during the anthem skyrocketed, with even some owners kneeling in solidarity with their players. In the end, the issue of kneeling during the anthem remains incredibly divisive even to this day. However, given the evidence, claiming that players are disrespecting the military or first responders by peacefully protesting racial inequality in America is nothing short of ignorant.
The baseless argument of Kaepernick’s disrespect toward the military has continued in regard to the Nike ad. Many Americans, including the President and his supporters feel as though by using Kaepernick’s image in an ad, the company is supporting a movement that is fundamentally anti-military and anti-American. Not only is this view incorrect, but for the President and many of those who support him, it is incredibly hypocritical. First and foremost, President Trump constantly portrays himself as pro-military and veteran. However his actions demonstrate quite the opposite. In an interview with “60 Minutes” in 1999, Trump said of Arizona Senator John McCain, who served in Vietnam and was held as a war prisoner for five years after choosing to remain a prisoner with the rest of his men rather than be released, “He was captured … Does being captured make you a hero? I don’t know. I’m not sure.” Before anyone says that this comment was made 16 years before he was a presidential candidate, let’s take a look at what he said of McCain at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in 2015, when he seemed to have solidified his stance, saying: “He’s not a war hero, he was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” This disgusting disrespect and belittlement of an American hero and lifelong public servant is exactly the type of moronic hypocrisy that makes Trump and many of his supporters’ outrage over Nike’s use of Colin Kaepernick, a man whose only crime was to peacefully kneel during the national anthem, nothing more than a pitiful joke. In addition to being incredibly insulting to John McCain personally, the comments are also offensive to the approximately 2,500 American prisoners of war from Vietnam to the present day. Strange words from a man who claims to “love the troops.”
In conclusion, Nike’s ad featuring Colin Kaepernick was nothing more than a prominent company using their platform to show support for an athlete and human being who has stood up for his beliefs even when his job was in jeopardy. The foolish individuals who are choosing to burn Nike gear in response to the ad that they misinterpret as being anti-military are merely misinformed of the facts on the issue and are choosing to represent that misinformation in a provocative way. This blind outrage is indicative of the current climate in which any piece of information – news or otherwise – is often taken as fact without being properly scrutinized. Therefore, I urge all those reading this piece to check and double check information that they are provided, regardless of the source so they are not perceived as ignorant.