It’s 2018 and the National Football League is a hotbed of controversy. This isn’t exactly news—the NFL has been no stranger to scandal after it famously ignored the very real danger of brain injuries caused on the field, and again when it failed to adequately punish players that had committed acts of domestic violence and sexual assault.
What is new, however, is how quickly public figures and brands have jumped to associate themselves with such a controversy-magnet, rather than distancing themselves for fear of an inevitable public image crisis. Why, after all, would any company seek out bad PR?
Nike has jumped aboard the NFL-controversy train and is going full steam ahead. The athletic apparel company’s newest ad campaign features Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started the “take a knee” protests in 2016. The ad shows a black-and-white photo closeup of Kaepernick’s face, with text declaring: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The public response to the ads was not quite what Nike had hoped for.
To many Americans, it is unclear what exactly Colin Kaepernick has sacrificed, considering he is still quite wealthy and has been enjoying favorable publicity from the liberal media. While he did sue the NFL in 2017 for colluding against him, Kaepernick has ultimately not taken too much of a hit in his wallet and in the liberal-dominated public sphere. And although an official figure hasn’t yet been disclosed, it is believed that his new contract with Nike may be worth millions
Is this what sacrifice looks like: a fat paycheck?
Politics on the Field Make for Dwindling Popularity
In response to the ad campaign, Americans were vocal in their disapproval. No doubt a divisive figure, many took issue with Kaepernick being depicted as a martyr or hero, arguing that Nike is promoting anti-American figures.
A boycott was quickly launched against Nike, and the brand’s stocks immediately dropped after the ad’s release.
The dissatisfaction of the American public in response to the ad is unquestionably tied to the larger frustration football fans nationwide have experienced as they’ve watched their favorite American sports league descend into a platform for political grandstanding.
While many who defend the protests say they aren’t inherently about the national anthem or the flag, Kaepernick himself made it clear this is not true, stating in 2016 “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Patriotism Still ‘In’, Despite What Elites Say
Kaepernick will continue to be championed as a hero by the mainstream media and corporations like Nike, who portray his cause as an honorable one for equality and social justice. In spite of this, there are plenty of Americans who see Kaepernick’s actions and the spirit of the protests as wholly disrespectful—to our flag, our country, and our national principles.
Wealthy elites, Hollywood stars, pundits, and television’s many talking heads may try to convince the public that being pro-America is somehow old-fashioned, uncool, or a crime. We shouldn’t listen to them.
The negative reaction to the Nike ad proves that Americans still love their country and their flag. It proves that Americans will still stand proudly for their country when the elites try to shun symbols of patriotism. And it proves that the demonization of being pro-America will not be tolerated.
You can try, but you’ll never be able to purge patriotism from public life. Not in America.