Call for Nike boycott met with mixed student reactions

Courtesy of Sam Deng
Students respond to Nike’s decision to launch a campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.

Senior Reporter

“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

This well known quote appears time and again on inspirational classroom posters and in political campaign slogans without much thought. It’s used so often it’s become un-attributable.

But when a politicized poster child appears with the slogan, who embodies the sentiment that one should stand up for one’s beliefs, regardless of consequence, the intended inspiration takes a much more controversial turn.

Nike incited an ongoing viral storm last week when the company launched a new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. The ex-49ers quarterback protested police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem before many NFL games.

Kaepernick’s teammates followed his example in a wave of protests. After comments from Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and President Donald Trump degraded the protestors, players and coaches linked arms in solidarity for a week during the 2016 season.

In the two years since he began protest, Kaepernick has been awarded by the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International. No longer an NFL athlete, Kaepernick opted out of his contract in March 2017 and has yet to sign with an NFL team.

Kaepernick is suing the NFL for what he sees as collusion between coaches to not sign him to a team to stop his kneeling. Fighting an ongoing legal battle, Kaepernick has again captured public attention as the face for Nike.

The campaign set a subset of Twitter into a frenzy. Users posted videos of Kaepernick jerseys burning, called for boycotts and even posted videos of burning Nike shoes and branded socks.

Those outraged see kneeling during the anthem as disrespectful to American veterans.

Brendan Laux, a senior, respects both sides of the controversy, but takes issue with people twisting Kaepernick’s protest away from his intentions. In Laux’s opinion, Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality is a right afforded to all citizens.

“I have no problem with it. I think the point he’s making is valid,” Laux said. “What I do have problem with is a public official entering the speech of an individual.”

Trump has long been a critic of Kaepernick’s protests. Last week he tweeted, “What was Nike thinking?” to show his disapproval of the ad.

The ad is a full close-up on Kaepernick’s face in black and white overlaid with the new slogan. The image’s simplicity and stark contrast mirror the polarized controversy surrounding the ex-professional athlete.

Since the picture’s initial release, it has appeared on billboards across the nation, along with a video ad.

The video aired during the U.S. Open and the NFL season opener Sept. 6, encouraging athletes to dream big. It featured world-class athletes such as Serena Williams and Lebron James, as well as amateurs training for their chance at winning big.

Though many support the move by Nike, public outcry continues.

When questioned students responded with support for Kaepernick, but also empathy for those that are offended. Cora Vasquez, a senior human services major who was sporting a pair of Nikes, said she liked the commercial. Vasquez said she would not be boycotting Nike and that burning sneakers is a waste.

“People who are burning their Nikes, it’s their right to protest,” she said. “Colin Kaepernick uses his platform for something he believes in, so let him live.”

Students also believed in the right for those who boycott Nike to do so.

Junior Jamie Wechsler understands how Nike is alienating a part of the population, but is most concerned with polarization in America. She said that as a Christian she seeks to address controversies with a clear head instead of ignoring any side that she doesn’t agree with.

“A lot of people have lost respect for [Kaepernick] and what he stands for — it’s shown in the burning of Nike sneakers, people are upset,” she said. “We’re sliding deeper and deeper into people not seeking to understand each other.”

Freshman Carly Mcgonagle believes it’s good that Kaepernick is standing up for himself. Mcgonagle said the American flag represents the freedom to protest, but finds the Nike burning a waste of time.

“I think it’s kind of dumb, it’s not gonna prove a point,” she said. “No matter what no one’s going to stop buying Nikes.”

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    Sean 1 year

    The whole nike boycott is the dumbest protest to come from the right I’ve seen. Not only do they burn their own $60+ shoes over football, they genuinely believe that the football players and anyone else for that matter, do not have the right to kneel during the national anthem in fear of disrespecting those who fight for our right to speak and protest freely in the first place. This comes from the same conservatives who whine the false narrative that “colleges are liberal hot beds that censor free speech.” They don’t care about the free speech of others, only the free speech of their fellow conservatives.

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