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Nike's Kaepernick Decision Takes Departure From Elite Endorsers

I am a high school English teacher with a variety of perspectives on a variety of subjects.


In 2018, Colin Kaepernick was made the face of Nike's advertising campaign, and some people were really pissed. Nike's stock dropped upon release of the news, and people nationwide were burning their sneakers. I even saw people claiming that Nike would soon be out of business because of this decision. While that idea is patently ridiculous, the fact is that a lot of people were irritated by Nike's choice.

Much of the dissatisfaction came from Kaepernick's decision to sit and later kneel during the National Anthem before games during the 2016 NFL season. There were many who supported Nike and Kaepernick, and star athletes under the Nike brand such as LeBron James and Serena Williams gave Nike and Kaepernick the old "atta boy!"

My irritation at Nike was not with the political statement that it is clearly making. The truth is that Nike is a billion-dollar corporation and makes decisions, especially as it pertains to marketing, based upon what it believes will make the company the most money. It is Nike's right to make such a statement as is it to choose Kaepernick as its poster boy.

But make no mistake, Nike made its claim for the moral high ground, and they anointed Kaepernick as a victim, trailblazer, and elite athlete all at once. In doing so, they put themselves at the forefront of the 24-hour news cycle, earning tons of free publicity (remember there is no such thing as bad publicity).

To be clear, Kaepernick is not a social justice warrior. Remember, this is the same guy who wore socks depicting police as pigs to practice. He wants to be a catalyst for change, but it's perfectly ok for him to disparage a large group of people (cops) based on the actions of a few.

But really, should that be a disqualifier? Nike has certainly been endorsed by those who have made questionable moral decisions (looking at you, Tiger). I mean, is sitting during the National Anthem worse than cheating on one's wife?

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Probably not.

The reason, however, that LeBron or Serena or even Tiger for that matter should be a little miffed over this decision is because Nike, by comparison, chose to glorify a subpar athlete. That's not to say that Kaepernick isn't a great athlete, but he is nowhere near a conversation involving the three aforementioned athletes on the subject of greatness or individual accomplishments.

At best, Kaepernick is a third-tier starter/first-tier backup in the NFL, and for most guys, that would be plenty to guarantee steady work for years to come. I mean, Koy Detmer survived 10 years in the league, and his greatest value was as a placeholder. But for every NFL team this far, Kaepernick hasn't been worth the investment.

Of course, Kaepernick suspected collusion and attempted to bring his case to court. What he didn't ever seem to consider is that the distraction he is to an organization is not worth the headache for the talent he brings in return.

Defenders of Kaepernick will point to the fact that he led the 49ers to a Super Bowl. The fact is that Kaepernick put together a pretty good stretch in 2013 and 2014, amassing a 20-12 record as a starter while throwing 40 touchdowns versus 18 interceptions.

The problem is that those stats came seasons ago. In 2016, Kaepernick was 1-10 with a 49.5 quarterback rating, and 2015 wasn't much better. In fact, although Kaepernick threw for 22 touchdowns against only nine interceptions, he has won only three games in his last 19 starts.

Perhaps Kaepernick's greatest differentiator from others who play his position is his ability to run, gaining 2,300 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in his career. The stat that you don't hear much of is that Kaepernick has taken 171 sacks in his career to date for 1060 yards lost. In 2014, he was sacked 52 times alone. He also has 40 fumbles in his career.

The point is that Kaepernick was a quarterback in decline in 2016. A full season of inactivity has likely done little to help this fact. Nike ad campaigns have long been the hallowed ground of greats like Jordan, Tiger, Serena, Ken Griffey, Jr, and Bo Jackson.

Being the best used to be enough. Now it's enough just to be political.

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