Nike is one of the most, if not the most, iconic sports brands on the planet. When Nike puts their name on something or someone, it has the ability to change their status in a matter of minutes. Since Its inception in January of 1964, Nike climbed its way to the top of brands in the sports world. What started as a company making sports gear and athletic clothing, grew into a brand that would host sponsors from the very top of the sports world.
Athletes across the world of sports such as LeBron James, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, and many others, have all served and continue to serve as brand ambassadors. Furthermore, Nike is now the official clothing manufacturer of the NBA and NFL, along with hundreds if not thousands of collegiate and high school teams as well.
This past week saw one of the most pivotal moments in “sports politics,” that we have seen maybe in this century. Nike signed Colin Kaepernick to a deal to celebrate their 30th anniversary of the introduction to Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. Nike retweeted an image of Colin Kaepernick’s tweet which read “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. #JustDoIt”
The NFL has a long standing relationship with Nike, and and this past year the two signed an 8-year extension which secured Nike’s production of NFL uniforms and accessories. Their first contract began in 2012.
The public was very surprised when Nike made this ad considering their relationship with the NFL, and that Kaepernick is currently in the middle of a legal battle, where he claimed that NFL owners illegally colluded to keep him out of the league. The NFL was asked to comment on the Kaepernick ad campaign. Jocelyn Moore, Executive Vice President of Communications for the NFL said, “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
It seems as if the NFL continues to say that it will back the players, but what it comes down to it, they have shown that players like Colin Kaepernick who speak out for what they believe in will be punished in one way or another.
This notion that the world’s top athletes should have a “shut up and play mentality,” is not a new idea. We have seen players in the NBA, like LeBron James, be publicized for their willingness to have an increased role in speaking up against America’s socio economic issues, and specifically ones tied to race. LeBron has proposed a documentary he wants to produce entitled “Shut Up and Dribble”, which will describe the struggle he has with stating his opinions, and the backlash he receives from disgruntled fans and league officials.
Players like LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick, both of whom are sponsored by Nike, prove that athletes are in a particularly tough situation. Everything they do is looked at under a microscope, and their teams, leagues, and fans at times, try and discredit their opinions simply because they are athletes. While being under this proverbial microscope has its drawbacks, it also does provide an outlet for athletes to insight change in our society. Just because these athletes are some of the most beloved and looked up to people in the country, especially by youth, it is wrong to censor them by limiting their ability to spread messages which they believe in. And in Colin Kaepernick’s case, to take away his livelihood because of it.