Staff Editorial: Nike cashed in on Kaepernick controversy

Everyone’s seen it.

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Nike’s recent advertisement, which revealed a new partnership with former 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the pre-game national anthem in August 2016, triggered a rapid social media response. All throughout Twitter and Instagram, everyone felt the need to either support Nike, or to condemn them.

People made up their minds fast.

In a matter of hours—or even minutes—hundreds of thousands of people tweeted their stance. Hundreds of thousands of people were quick to share with a hundred thousand more.

The protesters burnt their shoes. The supporters ordered more shoes. Media outlets called it a “bold political statement” and said Nike is “speaking out” on politics. The people proclaimed that Nike had taken a “huge risk”. 

Yet, days later, business was thriving for Nike. Better than ever.

That’s because they never truly took a risk. Nike clearly took advantage of a hot-button social issue to promote their brand. They made a calculated business decision. One they knew would pay off in the long run, and it has not taken long for them to reap the rewards. 

After their stock dropped one percent (over $5 billion), they quickly regained shares and ended up improving with an even higher value than before. Nike’s online sales have jumped 31 percent, and those sales are projected to only continue to improve. A bold political statement? More like a genius business move.

And what propelled Nike’s growth? The debate.

“Go ahead, burn our shoes”, Nike tells angry tweeters. “Go ahead, tweet about how much you support us. Either way we sell more product”, Nike says, laughing maniacally.

Part of the problem lies in Nike’s use of imagery and words that go far beyond the appeals of athletics. The tag-line of the campaign, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”, sounds like a call to political action. By exploiting injustice for profit, Nike is undermining the causes it declares to support. How does social justice and equality have anything to do with running shoes anyway?

“Is Nike right or wrong?” The argument is truly irrelevant. The company didn’t pick Kaepernick because they felt motivated by his political cause. They picked him because they like making money. 

There is nothing wrong with letting people know how you feel. But consider for a second what you’re actually protesting before you post it.

This is where a serious problem lies within society; we often feel the need to spew out our thoughts rather than think for even a minute. It’s time we recall our kindergarten days and remember to think before we type. As cliche as it may sound, this could help shrink the division that so many politicians are talking about nowadays.

Politics, of course, are invading every aspect of our lives, at least under the Trump adminisrtation. It started with entertainment, with notable moments like Meryl Streep’s speech to Trump during the 2017 Golden Globes. But now politics have even become a part of sports and commercial businesses.

This is just another reason we must think first. With politics surrounding us, there will always be a platform for us to voice our opinions about something, and with that, we will either be heard or utterly misconstrued. 

So if you want to burn something, burn your Kaepernick jersey. If you want to support something, support the players who kneel. When you include Nike in the conversation, you are just playing along with their game.

Nike methodically planned to divide people in order to promote their company, and it worked.

So, who will be next to cash in on controversy?