I was startled to learn that Nike is making former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick the face of its next marketing campaign. Kaepernick, you may recall, was riding the San Francisco 49ers bench two years ago, not only during the national anthem but during the games, due to inferior play.
Nike and Kaepernick’s supporters are attempting to revise history at this point, claiming that he sacrificed his career on a matter of principle. “Believe in something,” the Nike Kaepernick ad urges, “even if it means sacrificing everything.”
But Kaepernick’s career as a starting quarterback was already over before he started disrespecting the flag and the national anthem. By the time he was benched, he was rated 28th out of 28 starting NFL quarterbacks. NFL defenses had cracked the code, and his brief honeymoon in the league came to a bone-jarring halt.
If I were looking for somebody to represent the Nike slogan to “believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything,” I’d probably lean toward Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. Mrs. Stutzman, 73, has served and employed gay people all her life, but that wasn’t good enough for Washington state’s grandstanding attorney general, who joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the Christian lady because she refused to design floral art for a longtime customer’s homosexual wedding.
Or Jack Phillips, co-owner (with his wife) of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, Colorado. The state ordered him to design cakes celebrating homosexual marriage, or get out of the business. He took them to court instead. After several years, he won a 7-2 Supreme Court decision this summer. The state has already trumped up another case against him. Phillips says that when he gets vulgar, threatening phone calls from gay allies, he takes it as an opportunity to reach out, and to pray for them.
Or Kim Davis, county clerk at Rowan County, Kentucky, who went to jail rather than comply with a federal judge’s order that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But Nike has a business to run, and their ads need to appeal to the demographic that is obsessed with shoe brands, in some extreme cases to the point of homicide. And so Colin Kaepernick it is – a narcissist who used to be known for kissing his tattoos after touchdowns. His photograph in the ad looks like a mug shot: cold, malignant eyes and a prim, disapproving mouth.
You can bet that Nike did its due diligence calculations before this decision. They knew some of us would vow never to buy from them again. But they also know who their future buyers are. They’re marketing to a demographic with an average IQ of 85 or less, and a chip on its collective shoulder. Criminal subculture “street cred” is golden marketing. Cop-killing is not a deal-killer in this market. Nike stock has spiked since the decision.
At first, Kaepernick just remained seated on the bench during the anthem. I thought maybe he just wanted to make sure he got a good spot, because he was going to spend the rest of the game there. But when a reporter questioned him about it, he mumbled something about police shootings of Black men.
Kaepernick has displayed socks depicting police as pigs, and has donated $25 thousand to a Chicago-based organization – Assata’s Daughters – that honored cop-killer Joanne Chesimard. Joanne took a revolutionary name, Assata Shakur. She was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Forester, but later escaped from prison and is living in Cuba under the protection of Raoul Castro.
Kaepernick has worn Che Guevara shirts. It’s no hyperbole to say that he hates police, and he hates America. But former teammate Eric Reid was more publicity-savvy than the sullen, inarticulate Kaepernick. He convinced Kaepernick to join him in kneeling during the anthem instead of sitting on the bench. Reid said kneeling is the equivalent of flying the flag at half staff to acknowledge a tragedy.
And kneeling did catch the imagination of NFL players, mostly but not exclusively Black, and their media chroniclers. They wanted to have it both ways: they wanted to protest during the national anthem, but they insisted they were as patriotic as people who honor the flag and the anthem. It’s an absurd claim.
It’s certainly possible to protest and still be a patriot. In fact, love of country sometimes demands that you protest. And it’s an explicit Constitutional right. But when you protest during the national anthem, you’re showing contempt for what holds us together, what makes us care about people who are otherwise unconnected to us. It’s disrespectful, not persuasive, to make a spectacle of your complaints during the national anthem. We care less – not more – about your grievances if you think you owe our mutual national identity no loyalty.
Sherry Graham-Potter, the widow of an Arizona deputy sheriff killed in the line of duty, wrote an open letter to Nike after they announced their decision to line America’s highways with billboards of the cop-hating Kaepernick’s dead glare. She raised the objections that you would expect from a fallen police officer’s widow, but she also returned to a point that is rarely mentioned anymore: the cop-haters’ central accusation “has been proven false time and time again, in study after study.”
Does the truth matter to Kaepernick or Reid or Nike shareholders? It’s simply not true that unarmed Black men are disproportionately shot down by police.
Liberal college professors and the liberal Washington Post have dug into the data on this subject, and have admitted in the end that there is no statistical support for the claim that police shoot unarmed Black men more than they shoot unarmed white or Hispanic men. In one recent year, police officers were 18 times more likely to be killed by Black men than unarmed Black men were to be killed by police officers. It’s shameful to accuse somebody of homicidal racism if it’s not true. Just stop.