Colin Kaepernick is a martyr. But why did the NFL kill him?
Kaepernick first made national news after kneeling in protest of police brutality and social injustice during the national anthem in 2016. Since that season, Kaepernick has not played a game..
His fellow players began to kneel in protest the following year, angering fans and drawing the ire of the president.
A common sentiment is football is no place for politics. This statement may be true, but football is political. The NFL makes sure to cash in on one of their main selling points: patriotism.
A PBS report shows the NFL was paid $5 million in taxpayer money by the Department of Defense between 2011 and 2014. The NFL once profited off the military so directly the Department of Defense wrote them checks.
The NFL still profits off the military. There are flag unveilings with soldiers, flyovers and military color guards. These acts are political.
Players didn’t always stand on the sideline for the national anthem. According to a CNN report, players were only on the field for the Super Bowl and in remembrance after 9/11. The league didn’t mandate being on the field until 2009, two years before the military began writing teams checks.
The NFL wants to be political, but only when the politics are on their side. Bad politics (to the NFL) are bad for business. Nike is throwing a wrench in that argument.
Kaepernick, the black sheep of the NFL, has been inked as the face of Nike’s newest campaign, celebrating 30 years of the classic “Just Do It” slogan. The campaign turned Michael Jordan into a megastar, and catapulted Nike as an industry leader. The print advertisement released Sept. 3, and the first television spot debuted during the first NFL game of the year.
Nike is a corporation that exists to make money. The bottom line is important, and Nike must believe Kaepernick will help the bottom line.
The short-term effects of the campaign look promising for Nike. According to CNBC, the company’s online sales jumped 31 percent Labor Day weekend, and Nike shares hit an all-time high.
The question becomes: Why does Nike think Kaepernick will be profitable when the NFL has told us the opposite? The two companies operate in a relatively similar market. Nike is more global, but they are also the jersey sponsor of the NFL.
However, Nike’s track record of social injustice makes it difficult to praise the company. They are no stranger to controversy, having been bogged down in the past by accusations of child labor in foreign countries.
The NFL released a statement regarding the advertisement, saying, “The social-justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
Maybe Nike did move the needle. They are one of the few companies as powerful as the NFL.
Now, when another athlete speaks out, the NFL may think twice about turning them into a martyr, too.