American football quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, started kneeling during the rendition of the United States’ national anthem before a preseason game in 2016 as his way to protest police brutality against black Americans. This stance created a huge divide between those who showed solidarity with him or those who saw his protest as being disrespectful to the US national anthem and flag.
In 2016, young black men aged between 15 and 34 were nine times more likely to get killed by law enforcement than any other Americans according to data gathered by The Counted for UK publication, The Guardian.
Despite such alarming figure, Kaepernick’s insistence to keep taking a knee and using the platform he had as a player in one of the most lucrative and most watched sports in the US to keep the issue of police brutality on the front burner brought him more woes than plaudits.
His woes started to hit home when he opted out of his contract with his team, the San Francisco 49ers, hence, making him a free agent. In normal circumstances, that would not be a problem except as it turned out, none of the other NFL teams was willing to offer a contract to the free agent afterwards.
It was in this way Kaepernick basically became casted out of the NFL by the clubs. But it did not stop the 30-year-old from carrying on with his protest by making appearances and donations to charities.
At this point, the name Kaepernick would be like an infection to avoid for many brands due to how divisive his stance has been. Other players knelt or raised a fist during the national anthem before games.
When US President, Donald Trump, basically asking teams to sanction players and staff who follow Kaepernick in kneeling, NFL teams decided all players must stand during the national anthem while those who wished to protest at that time should stay off the field until the end of the anthem.
Still, some players have either knelt on the field or raised a fist during the anthem during preseason games, leading Trump to tweet about the economic significance of the sport rather than address the real issue – two years on.
Since the power that be failed to do just that, Nike, decided to make Kaepernick one of the faces of its 30th anniversary campaign for the Just Do It slogan – a big win for Kaepernick as it gives him a major platform to continue his protest until the issue of racial injustice is addressed properly.
The Nike ‘partnership’ which would make Kaepernick’s face even more visible via adverts on billboards, social media and other platforms, and also involves creating an apparel using his name.
Expectedly, it has been met with mixed reactions with one side of the divide believing Nike has made the wrong move by backing Kaepernick.
And it is here that the stench of hypocrisy fills the room as such people who hold that opinion have decided to boycott Nike products, with some even going as far as burning any of the manufacturer’s merchandise they owned in protest of partnership.
This sort of action compared to the more civil manner Kaepernick has gone about his protest over a more serious issue speaks volumes and, perhaps, helps mark more clearly the lines separating the ones who stand with Kaepernick from the ones who feel the sportsman is disrespectful to veterans, service people, the national anthem, and the flag.
All this coming just days before the new NFL season begins and a few weeks before Nike releases earnings report, the sportswear manufacturer’s bold move to back Kaepernick fully brings a cancerous issue to everyone’s consciousness and could be what forces the issue to finally be addressed properly.
For a player who has been out of work for two years, it’s a major touchdown in his stance against racial injustice in the country and proves that, with time, ones effort to see to a solution of a problem won’t be a futile one. Indeed, there are interesting times to come.