Nike’s new ad campaign, the one that includes Colin Kaepernick behind the legend “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” has had the desired effect of inflaming the open sores of the American body politic.
It also means that the ex-49ers quarterback is winning the battle on the one field that Americans understand even more than football.
This seems more dismissive than it actually is; in fact, this serves as proof that Kaepernick is not going away, no matter how much the NFL, the White House or the perpetually angry want him to. He endures as a concept even if he does not as a football player, and Nike’s decision to drop his face on the nation three days before the NFL’s new season shows if nothing else that it is ready to challenge the notion that the NFL is America’s leading tastemaker.
It is a fascinating choice, and a bit of a gamble, as it is going to be a litmus test of Nike’s will in the face of what will be the usual round of right-wing hysteria and shoe boycotting. Nike is like every other megacorp – it bleeds green. That it is ready and willing to give Kaepernick a new way to show who and what he is, is a bet on an America that doesn’t live by television ratings or by the shaking fists and apoplectic rage of its oligarchs.
Now we shall see if Nike can resist the impulse to pull back from him, or just as bad, to co-opt the message to move more T-shirts. After all, as we said above, Nike is a megacorp, and megacorps bleed green.
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The number of people who will find the ad offensive will be equally enraged by the notion that Nike has been paying Kaepernick all this time, because one of their goals all along has been to eradicate him and punish those who dare to do otherwise. The NFL has done its share, but as Kaepernick is no longer a football player (I’m betting the collusion suit will end up not with a quarterbacking job but with either a judgment or a settlement), its hold on his place in the national psyche is fading.
That Nike is the vehicle for his revivification is fascinating, but only if your games run more toward corporate power plays. Nike has made an assumption that Colin Kaepernick resonates with its customers enough that it is worth the potential irritation of one of its mightiest clients. And if Kaepernick wins his suit, the league will be paying him treble damages for the right to be irritated by his presence.
In other words, one part of corporate America is taking a bite out of a corresponding part of corporate America over The Quarterback Who Is Bigger Than The Game, a potential ouroboros of money on the hoof eating itself. No matter what side of the Kaepernick divide you stand, you’ll probably find that vision inspiring.
I mean, I know I do.