Republicans buy sneakers, too.
At least they did until the recent Nike campaign played on their naive understanding of the NFL Kneeling Protests. As Twitter users with variations of MAGA and Trump in their name have pointed out, this may not be the soundest business strategy for an apparel conglomerate that caters to everyone, and I am more inclined to believe someone with three numbers in their username than the entire Nike marketing and business department.
So the objective is clear. Nike must win their fanbase back.
The optimist in me wants to believe that maybe this is us crossing the rubicon where corporations take a stance on moral issues and become more than just glorified printing presses for their leadership. That this is the time where profits don’t underlie every single decision and we consider other moral and societal dynamics. But, it’s probably not, so Nike will have to win back the demographic out there burning their products (or launch another campaign just as offensive to the same demographic that forces them to go out and buy more products to burn).
It’s a difficult task to find suitable alternatives for Nike to partner with to stand in opposition to Colin Kaepernick and the forces that be. Lucky for you, we’re up to the task.
You don’t have to look far and wide for someone to represent the values of those who fundamentally disagree with what Colin Kaepernick is protesting. In what I am sure is a coincidence and nothing more, the entire demographic tends to overuse racial slurs and resort to dated terms to signify the racial division that they’ve worked so hard to preserve.
Richie Incognito is the true American patriot: tough, grinding, and obviously not here for your weak-willed BS when it comes to football. Clearly, such is the case because he continuously goes after his own teammates to highlight their frailty and remind them they are most certainly beneath him.
We’re only on suggestion two, and there might already be a theme developing. Not only did Riley Cooper continue the great white American tradition of resorting to racial slurs when lost for words (understandable when your entire vocabulary is about 100 words, four of which are ‘Make America Great Again’). Plus, he did it at a Kenny Chesney concert. Could there be a more appropriate reflection of the common, good-willed American? I’d be hard-pressed to find one.
Let’s not limit ourselves to football. Curt Schilling is a true American, and a quick tertiary perusal of his Twitter account helps us identify him is such, from supporting ICE to buying into the right-wing media interpretation of the NFL protests (helpful hint: listen to the players). Some of Curt’s other greatest American hits involve not believing in evolution, comparing Muslims to Nazis, and being an avid anti-transgender advocate.
To top it all off, Schilling has clearly sacrificed as much as Kaep. While he has enjoyed a long athletic career, ESPN decided to part ways with him following the aforementioned anti-transgender sentiment on social media. In his defense, Curt wrote a short blog post, stating that he didn’t post any such content and somehow also defending the content in the same article. This is a truly embattled soul who knows what true sacrifice is.
Nike doesn’t only have to repair their relationship with fans, they also have to win back some of the athletes. Failing a third-grade comprehension test, retired NHL player David Booth decided the Kaepernick campaign went a bit too far and made himself vocal on Twitter.
“Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything” does this mean you can fly a plane into a building? How can so many people @Nike be this ignorant as to the logical fallacy this entails. This is absolute absurd. I really don’t understand. Why would u support this?
— David Booth (@D_Booth7) September 6, 2018
Losing their primary Air Monarch target dem may be one thing, but athletes mean endorsement deals, and with Booth’s announcement, tens or hundreds of loyal fans may never buy a pair again. Nike must rebuild the bridge and sign David Booth to this contract.
This one might actually already be in the works seeing how Maria Sharapova is already with Nike and steadily releasing stickers, but she also checks all the boxes. She continues to be outspoken about a variety of issues without truly understanding them. In her rivalry with Serena Williams, which she’s the only person to acknowledge, Maria has a visible opposition to someone actively trying to overthrow the status quo, fighting for equality and recognition.
Oh, and she’s Russian, and this may actually be a very strong argument in her favor, given the current political climate.
Don “Moose” Lewis
This is less the man than the idea behind the man. In 2010, Don Lewis was hard at work trying to start the All-American Basketball Alliance, an alternative to the NBA with one very specific requirement. In Don’s mind, the most marketable concept behind the AABA was the fact that it would be an all-white basketball league. Nike could revitalize that project. Just imagine the highlight reels of perfect layup lines, up and unders, and single side-to-side crossovers, perhaps with a cross burning at half-time.
Think about it. The entire fanbase of white, seemingly unathletic blog readers will finally get their chance. Entire teams of dudes who once tweeted “I could beat Diana Taurasi one on one” will need athletic gear. This isn’t just about outfitting fans, it’s about sponsoring an entirely new league. Plus, by not allowing people of color into the AABA you naturally avoid any and all controversy of athletes fighting for their right to be viewed as human beings and not just subjects of your entertainment.
Just look at this scouting report:
Ted Cruz relying hard on the right. pic.twitter.com/8crmawT9UM
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) June 17, 2018
I’m not saying the Utah Jazz thought they were drafting Ted Cruz when they drafted Grayson Allen. But I’m not not saying that either.
A Sweatshop Owner In The Philippines
Nike tested the barometer for outrage and came out with some positive results. Apparently, a variety of predatory business dealings and human rights abuses during manufacturing isn’t really the rubicon for faithful consumers. No one is willing to stake a principal claim on a brand because they may have broken some rules somewhere out there that isn’t America, just as long as they continue make comfortable apparel for Karen to do CrossFit in.
It’s Nike actually standing up for human rights that offend people. So why not just go for it and embrace one of the important tenets of the Nike brand?
Ext. — Cave — Three Days Since Crucifixion
The sun rises over the horizon. As the first rays gently trace a path along the ground, they reach an enclosure in the rocky mountain-side. A boulder covering the cave opening trembles slightly, then more, before eventually sliding to the side.
The light penetrates the dark. We peek inside.
We see a shadow of a man, a silhouette standing deep in the dark abyss. Two teenagers playing one-on-one see this and stop their game, perplexed and mesmerized. The ball rolls towards the cave and the boys are unsure about going after it.
The figure whispers: “Game on.”
Jesus bursts out of the cave and dunks over both boys, hanging on the rim. He is draped in the American flag. An eagle flies across the sky. Fireworks spray. The anthem plays.
The ads practically write themselves.
I can’t be certain Nike will consider any of these suggestions without a thorough business analysis. They’re a corporation, and they are inclined to not act on anything that would be detrimental to their bottom line. One might hope that as we grow into the future, big corporate entities start to build on a foundation of moral compassion and corporate responsibility. But for now, that still seems like a quite distant pipe dream.
While it’s great to see Nike champion an athlete like Kaepernick, one has to wonder what is the ultimate price?
Surely, Nike has done extensive market research that doubles down on the notion that big-city millennial consumers are a larger share of the apparel market than the occasional purchaser from rural Alabama. To assume they haven’t tested this idea to its merits is both naive and irresponsible. Brands don’t do social justice. Not without a profit margin.
Nike’s embrace of Kaepernick tells us that the company can read the pattern and they are betting on the future. The future that is now beating against the last vanguard of the old, white male unable to give up his control over literally everything. Nike is reading the tea-leaves and sees 2020 as a more diverse and inclusive environment, with increasing activism becoming a marketable commodity. And they’re jumping on that train early.
Just don’t misconstrue their financial prudence for some sort of egalitarian crusade. Cuz this ain’t it.