The Sacrifice Of Belief
The Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick was not a win for the Black community nor did it directly address the issue of police brutality. A day after the unveiling of the brilliant Nike Ad, Botham Jean, an unarmed Black man is killed in his own home, murder mystery style, and Justice for his family and community is still pending - per usual.
While members of the Black community scramble to find Justice for yet another slain, Nike proudly announces a 10 percent rise in revenue to $9.95 billion and a 15 percent jump in profit to $1.1 billion in its first quarter, with Nike stock spiking to an all-time-high of over $85 per share.
The Israelite like plight of the Black Community is that we have yet to collectively decide on what progress looks like for Black people. We've become so romanced with the placebo of progress that we no longer gauge the value of a thing by its results. If we did, we wouldn't be online talking about what the Nike Ad did. We would be talking about what the Nike Ad did for Us. Talking about what the Ad did is just a sign that the Marketing worked. Marketing is specifically designed to get people talking; and not just talking but, talking in a way that makes people to go out and buy. The numbers have come in and neither Nike's sales or the death toll have fallen - in fact they're both still on the rise.
Nike and the corporate giants that rose to power in the 80s and 90s did so through what later became known as lifestyle branding. On the foundation of propagandist Edward Bernays (and modern psychology), Corporations found a way to market to consumers by breaking them down into types. The "types" were characterized by key interests and traditions practiced by a particular demographic group; hence the birth of the Sports brand for the sporty and athletically inclined - enter Nike.
It wasn't a large leap for Nike to go from Active-wear to Activ-ism, it was a calculated risk. Kaepernick sat (unemployed) on Nike's roster for a year despite urges from Nike's Advertising agency of three decades - Wieden & Kennedy, responsible for the iconic Jordan ads of the late 80s - suggesting this was their chance to connect with the desperately sought after urban youth demographic. Grown, White, Male, NFL fans are not Nike's target market. At worst the Kaepernick ad might have brought on a dip in sales of $40 Dad shoes. Not to mention, in March, Nike and the N.F.L. restructured their existing agreement. Adding a 10 year extension to Nike's contract with the N.F.L., Nike will no longer be creating N.F.L merchandise, only the clothing worn on the field. With the N.F.L. now accounting for an even smaller piece of the Nike pie, Nike now had even less to lose - and a lot to gain.
Unfortunately, activism has become more of a platform for community and social inclusion than a vehicle for actual change. We are not living in an age of protest, we are living in a culture of protest. Social causes are the new brands. Nuevo-political stances are the new designer labels. Outdated views will get you rejected at the same velocity of outdated clothes. And corporations know this. We were raised to be this way. We were the first generation of children to be marketed to directly. Our palate has been set for corporate consumption. Our phones know more about us than our closest friends.
We are surely in denial on the matter. But if the truth is told, we would rather add value to corporations than to our own communities. Corporations raised us, and in some warped way, we want to make our parents proud; subconsciously we seek corporate acceptance. Kaepernick on a billboard was like having our picture hung up on the family wall.
The tagline read: Believe in something even if it means risking everything. Colin Kaepernick believes in a safer world for Black people, a world cleansed of police brutality. At a closer glance, Nike believed in Colin's ability to generate profit and so they risked "everything", or so the tale will be told. Nike's dream has come true, yet in classic American fashion we are still waiting for ours to.
Malcolm X spoke to us of the simple-minded servant who celebrated Massa's gains and empathically suffered Massa's misfortunes. This is indeed the negro celebrating the joy of being in the House, yet may we remain vigilant, lest we forget our brothers and sisters are still dying in the Field.