The lonesome start to it all. Photo by Chris Carlson/AP
The smoke's still barely cleared from the charred remains of all the overpriced Nike stuff seething if self-defeating white guys burned this week to protest, or "boycott" as they called it, Nike for making "son-of-a-bitch" and racial justice activist Colin Kaepernick the face of its 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign. Kaepernick first tweeted the ad, featuring a black and white head shot of the former 49ers quarterback with the words, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything."
While the campaign will feature other athletes, including Odell Beckham Jr., Shaquem Griffin, Serena Williams and LeBron James, Nike chose Kaepernick to kick it off, calling him "one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward." Despite an ongoing collusion grievance against the league, no team has signed him since his first National Anthem protest in August 2016. "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he declared at the time. "There are bodies in the street and (people) getting away with murder."
Nike's endorsement of Kaepernick - and its multi-million dollar contract - triggered a wave of outrage from bellicose patriots raving they now had to "choose between my favorite shoes and my country." Cue social media posts from the likes of Liberty4Freemen, showing brave souls decapitating their Nike socks and burning their Nike sneakers; in at least one post, a guy burns his shoes while wearing them - his next post was, "I'm in the hospital" - but it's unclear if it was trolling or legit idiocy on parade. Helpful responses to such folly invariably noted that people had already paid for their stuff so what's the point, and rather than burning them why not gift them to those in need? "Dude, you could give them to a homeless vet," said one. "Why do you hate veterans?" It was also widely rumored that every time a white person burned his shoes, an angel got its wings and a black person got a pair of Nikes.
Amidst the furor, ironies abound - primarily, the "head-spinning" notion that a $28 billion multinational behemoth long decried for appalling sweatshop-like conditions is now positing itself as righteous supporters of dissent, and the bottom-line reality that Nike wouldn't take the gamble unless it figured it would turn a profit. Still, good was done: Having given away a lot of his own money while fighting a good fight and being pilloried by Trump on down, Kap will earn a living and have his activism supported by no less than the official sponsor of the NFL. Nike, meanwhile, just keeps doubling down. It erected a huge Kap billboard over its San Francisco headquarters; it announced it's leaving that location, which is Trump-owned; and on Wednesday it dropped its first slick new TV commercial of the campaign, to debut during the NFL's opener Thursday night. Voiced by Kap, it features him and many other inspirational athletes urging, "Dream crazy." In the next spot, maybe they can also remind the shoe-burning dudes to pass 'em on instead.