One of the heroes of our stories has recently reappeared on the front pages and occupied prime media time. It’s Colin Kaepernick, a football player who, as an act of protest against racially motivated police violence in America, during the national anthem, kneeled instead of standing at the beginning of each match. He wasn’t the only player who did this back then, but when Nike hired him to shoot an advertising spot that ends with the slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means you sacrifice everything“, it has become a kind of symbol of the struggle against racial discrimination in general.
Because of that kneeling, his home club San Francisco 49ers didn’t extend his contract, and the administration of the national football association NFL prevented him from signing a new one for any club in the league. That’s why Kaepernick sued the NFL.
Even then, the whole affair caused a lively public controversy, dominated by two opposing theses. One was that Kaepernick, by concluding a commercial contract with Nike, sold the principles he had been advocating for, and the second was to raise awareness of the problem of racial discrimination, thanks to such an advertising campaign.
The story came into the spotlight again. at the beginning of February this year when it was published that Kaepernick achieved an out-of-court settlement with the NFL. The exact amount of indemnity that NLF was to pay to Kaepernick wasn’t revealed, but the sum of $ 80 million was mentioned the most often.
As soon as this was announced, accusations of such Kaepernick’s decision started. He was blamed for having definitely betrayed the principles to which he initially seemed to be sincerely committed. In the article entitled “There are no settlements on social justice, Colin Kaepernick,” author Gee Scott imposed a following question: What would have happened if Martin Luther King had once given up his dream and struggle for the equality of Black Americans at the time, and enjoyed the financial safety provided for him and his family in return, including watching the sunset in the Caribbean.
In the new episode of this saga, Kaepernick’s main problem isn’t the amount of financial compensation, but the result of such a settlement. By adhering to it, he prevented even the possibility for the court to reach a verdict of violating his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech by NFL. This brought down the whole case to a private dispute and, because of such an epilogue, it disabled its spreading to wider social context or serving as an example which others can refer to in future to prevent similar forms of discrimination. The thing is that Colin Kaepernick was publicly kneeling as a sign of protest against racially motivated violence by the police, and then, by accepting such a deal, he sent a message that even principles can be sold and that they have their price. So, let’s just relax, and make a deal how much it is.
When I wrote about the Kaepernick’s case last time, he was an example to the ever-increasing practice of commercial brands to use current and controversial social topics to attract more attention and then direct that attention towards buying their products. I naively believed that they would still tackle those issues with more respect and really show concern for them. Thus, the companies themselves would be able to say that they have used their social position to join social awareness and profit. In this case, I made a mistake.
Just a few days after the settlement was reached, Nike launched a campaign to sell a limited edition of a special black jersey with Kaepernick’s name on the back and number 7 which was his number when he had been an active player. One detail is especially interesting here – this jersey had no Nike logo on it. At first glance, this could be interpreted as a reasonable move of the company that doesn’t want to use topic like this one for its promotion. However, there’s no need for it any more, because Kaepernick has already become a symbol of the Nike brand and there is no need to put a logo in order to know which brand it is all about. There is no better evidence that in this particular case a company has successfully taken on a sensitive social topic and has used it to promote its own commercial interest. We should understand people from Nike. How could they miss the opportunity to make a profit from another wave of the increased attention that this news has caused?
This time, the campaign for the sale of these jerseys was supported by Kaepernick himself, on his Instagram account, which, like in every good old commercial, directly invited people to buy a jersey with his name.
Instead of a conclusion, it’s enough to say that all the jerseys from this limited edition were sold out in less than 24 hours. Apparently, Nike has recognized new trends well, adapted to them successfully, and proved that they know exactly what needs to be done and they do it in next to no time. Or to speak it in Nike’s words, the solution is simple: JUST DO IT!