Nike, Kaepernick, the President, and America

Free Speech, President

I have watched in … some weird cross of bemusement and concern … the fuss over the NFL players kneeling in protest, President Trump’s response, and Colin Kaepernick.

There are so many views it isn’t even funny. Like most Americans, I think several things.

Protests

As we know, the protesters, is alleged to stem from what Colin Kaepernick and others view as social injustice. His quote, during a press conference after he sat out the National Anthem the first time was, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

It drew some attention initially, but not too much. It was pretty much Kaepernick and a couple other players.

Then Trump

I’m not sure exactly when the President got involved in this issue, or when his first tweet was, but it was a relatively calm issue until he got involved. There were news reports but there were nowhere near as many players kneeling and there were nowhere near as many folks upset over the issue.

Still, the President got involved and the issue exploded. Then he attacked the NFL, an American company and institution. He seems to enjoy attacking American institutions and it is worrisome.

The Tweet storm didn’t help. He questioned patriotism and got a lot of people to decide to boycott the NFL. People like my father, who has never watched the NFL, but he says he can boycott something he didn’t watch to begin with, so it’s all good.

Now Nike

The Nike ad has been a huge source of debate. Debuted just a few days ago, some people (the President for instance) hate it and burned their Nike products. Some love it. Nike loves it as their sales rose 31 percent within a 24-hour period.

The video ad is actually a pretty good advertisement (the ad starts a few seconds in):

Now there are issues.

Kaepernick’s face over an ad that talks about sacrificing everything. Did he really sacrifice everything? When you compare to some (firefighters on 9/11, the troops storming Normandy Beach), Kaepernick has sacrificed nothing more than a career playing a game.

But Nike’s marketing people are brilliant and the campaign seems to be working.

My view

I have several views.

The President of the United States missed the boat. To be honest, I think he has a faux patriotism that he uses to his advantage.

As a veteran, I took an oath when I enlisted. I pledged to defend the Constitution, not the flag, and not the national anthem.

It bugs me immensely that the players kneel during the national anthem. I’d suggest they have better, and far more tangible, ways to impact the issues about which they care.

Of course, it also bugs me to look around the stadium and see Bubba – the same Bubba who will complain about the kneelers – still sitting down, or refusing to leave the beer line (God forbid), or stand still and quiet, when the National Anthem is playing.

Welcome to America, right?

The players are using their First Amendment rights. The First Amendment is part of the Constitution, so even if I don’t like it, I should defend it. So should the President. So should Bubba.

But Kaepernick shouldn’t be too surprised that he’s had trouble finding a job. That’s the crux of civil disobedience. As Dr. Martin Luther King said (and I’m paraphrasing), you stand up (or kneel) you gotta suffer the consequences.

My biggest concern is that this is a distraction. We don’t get to have a discussion about free speech, protest, police brutality, or the role of race in our nation. Rather, we’re talking about boycotts, burning Nike shoes, or trying to determine whether or not someone loves America or is disrespecting the military.

Nike: Believe in something? Sure. Sacrifice everything? Come on.

The fact is the President made the situation more prevalent, more public, and frankly, more contentious with his tweets. He diverted from the possibility of discussing real issues.

He could get us back there, but will he? I kind of doubt it.

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