If you are reading this, you are falling victim to what I already have — giving attention and consideration to an advertising campaign meant to take up space in our brains.
And, at some point at least, open up our wallets.
Nike’s ad featuring Colin Kaepernick and the believe-in-something-even-if-it-means-sacrificing-everything hook is controversial for all kinds of reasons.
First, it targets — and exploits — the ongoing anthem issue in pro sports, started when Kaepernick declined to stand for the national anthem before games, first sitting, then taking a knee instead. Second, it uses Kaepernick himself — and his unfortunate circumstances — to move product. Third, it assigns a stance to Kaepernick that he likely never considered when he started the protests. Fourth, even in drawing more focus to Kaepernick, it blurs what the protests were really about and, as stated, monetizes them for a company trying to sell shoes manufactured by poor workers in other countries and further fill the vaults in Beaverton, Ore.
Which is to say, it bastardizes and washes over the point Kaepernick was originally trying to make with his pregame gesture about racial injustice in this country, and it capitalizes on his being shut out by teams in the NFL who also are worried about their bottom lines.
Maybe that’s not that different from other manifestations of modern-day marketing in corporate America, which will do darn near anything to increase sales and stock prices. But to utilize a profound rebel-with-a-cause mantra, stirred originally by and pointed at such a significant issue, affecting so many lives, is more than a bit dirty.
Nike, of course, knew all of this, having done enough research to be able to predict the reaction and the benefits of such exploitation, counting on especially younger buyers to join that foggy cause. They knew it would make noise. And they are right about this much: Never before have I — or a whole lot of other media members and participators on social media — thought or written or talked about a shoe-and-apparel company in our respective spaces.
And, yet, here we are.
That does not mean, however, many will actually buy the sales job and suddenly drop cash on Nike products. It could have the opposite effect. In some corners, people are straight offended by the company’s push, lashing back against its use of Kaepernick as a brave symbolic figure on a stance they reject.
That gets back to the NFL’s treatment of the quarterback, who most certainly is better than other QBs on the rosters of a number of teams. Why is he not playing in the league, then? Not even as a bench player? Why is there not a single team in the entire league that has signed or will sign the man, even in an ultra-competitive environment in which qualified back-up quarterbacks are needed almost everywhere?
You know the answer.
Too many paying customers were either put off by or misunderstood Kaepernick’s protests, considering them anti-military and unpatriotic, and reacted negatively toward the NFL as a whole, to the point where the league figured his inclusion was costing them money.
I’ve always seen the anthem to be a time before games where Americans of varying perspectives with different ideas about important things could unite for a couple of minutes over common ground before moving on to first downs and home runs and slam dunks and, thereafter, real life. But just because a concerned citizen, even one in pads and cleats who makes millions of dollars, takes a knee during a song — even an anthem — does not make him less of a patriot.
Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees with that.
It didn’t help that Kaepernick hasn’t fully detailed or explained his positions, not with satisfactory clarity, and that he was seen wearing a shirt with Fidel Castro’s image on it and socks depicting police officers as pigs.
Nike went ahead and ran toward Kaepernick, signing him up for the same reason the NFL is running away from him. He is a symbol, one that some customers reject — among them, the president of the United States — and some customers accept, even as an edgy presentation with which they identify.
No matter that the premise of the ad is flawed.
This is just a guess, but when Kaepernick first started protesting, he knew it would garner attention, which is a big part of the reason he did it. But there’s no way he believed at that time his gesture would reach the proportions it has, with the attendant ramifications, causing him to be completely shut out of his football career.
The suggestion in the ad is that he knew what was coming and he stood — or sat or knelt — strong, anyway.
Now Nike is paying him for doing so, either way.
Ultimately, as it should be, it’s up to the public to gauge its reaction to the whole of it. Some will embrace Kaepernick and Nike, falling for the marketing manipulation, some will turn away and maybe even boycott. Some will do neither.
In the end, we’ll be just as divided on — or apathetic about — buying and wearing sports shoes and gear as we are on seeking solutions to social issues, providing better healthcare and building walls.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.