Column: ESP-Em

If you’ve been on Twitter this week, you know what this column is going to be about. Nike’s ‘Just do it’ ad featuring Colin Kaepernick has made waves since its release Monday, garnering the attention of much of the country. 

President Trump tweeted about it. People burned their shoes or cut the Nike swoosh off socks because of it.  A few Christian colleges, like College of the Ozarks,  cut or reconsidered their Nike sponsorships in response to it. Those who burned their clothing were criticized because they could have donated the items instead of ruining them.

Other companies, such as Ford and the NFL, have jumped into the media storm and expressed their support for Nike. Many people have chosen to side with Nike, increasing the company’s online sales by 31 percent, according to Time Magazine. 

Nike’s stock dropped 3 percent Tuesday, prompting non-supporters to claim that the drop was a result of Nike’s actions. However, Adidas and Under Armour also suffered similar drops, signaling that it was simply a bad day in the stock market.

I don’t think Nike’s marketing decision will permanently alter their sales. What matters to the consumer generally isn’t a company’s political stance, but rather the quality of their product. For example, I don’t agree with Target’s bathroom policy or some of the statements they’ve made, but I still shop there because I find they offer cheaper, higher quality clothing than some other retailers.

Frankly, I’m glad I recently chose to purchase a pair of Adidas sneakers instead of a pair of Nikes. This isn’t to say that I hate Nike. My Nike shoes and clothing have lasted through several years of band camp. But I’d rather not worry about what my clothing says about my political views. Besides, this time around, I found the Adidas shoes were simply better.

I’m unsure where I stand on Kaepernick. It’s unclear whether or not he truly “sacrificed everything” as the ad says. I assume that refers to his NFL career. Yes, kneeling and wearing disrespectful socks was a controversial move, but was it his protests or the fact that he was a poor quarterback, winning 1 of 11 his last season,  that led to him being cut from the NFL? We may never know.

Since the Kaepernick ad came out, I’ve become hyperaware of the clothing people wear. The swoosh on someone’s sneakers or on the collar of their jacket has become more than computer-printed vinyl. Whether consumers like it or not, corporate brands have become political statements.

People are torn between wearing their favorite pair of shoes or wearing a less-loved pair without consequence.

That’s the issue with using a company’s platform to make a political statement—it turns a neutral item, like clothing, into something divisive. This was evident when Under Armour expressed its support for the troops and our police.

However, Nike’s intent is unclear. Were they shooting for a marketing stunt, or were they actually trying to say that they stand with Kaepernick and agree with him? 

That’s the reason Liberty hasn’t broken its contract with Nike — at least not yet. President Jerry Falwell told USA Today, “We’re exploring the situation. If Nike really does believe that law enforcement in this country is unfair and biased, I think we’ll look around. … But if it’s just a publicity stunt to bring attention to Nike or whatever, that’s different. We understand that. We understand how marketing works.”

A Nike sponsorship is an awesome thing for the school, both for athletes and for students. Leaving that deal would mean finding a new company both for athletic uniforms and for practically half the
bookstore’s stock.

While companies, athletes and other groups have every right to use their platform to express their political opinions, is it necessary? Is it wise? And does it make that much of a difference

For the better part of two decades the Nike symbol has been equated with athletic success. In the end I don’t think this will significantly affect Nike’s sales or stock. This decision may seem huge and divisive at the moment, but soon it will fade into the background.

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