Column: Burning shoes to #BoycottNike won’t change that fact that Kaepernick and his kneeling aren’t going anywhere
While Colin Kaepernick’s inclusion in Nike’s newest campaign has ignited (literal) fires, supporters know that this move further adds credibility and validity to this powerful movement.
Sep. 10, 2018
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Roshae Hemmings is a first year journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about civil rights.
“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.” Those words expressed by Colin Kaepernick marked the inception of the now infamous kneeling protest that has garnered both support and persistent opposition. The protests, having begun during the 49ers’ preseason, continued throughout 2017 and gained intense, polarizing media coverage. However, as of late the controversy surrounding Kaepernick and the protests has been somewhat quiet. That is, until now.
I rarely ever click on links to news stories that I see on my Twitter feed. Typically, my Twitter scrolls are done senselessly, in order to pass the time that I have between classes or to absolve my boredom. When news of Kaepernick's part in Nike's 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” slogan broke on Sept. 3, my reaction was more or less the same; give it a thoughtless like and move on. However, my interest wasn't peaked until talks of cutting off swooshes and burning Nike gear came up on my timeline.
Despite the work Kaepernick continued to do for the movement after the hype was gone, Nike helped to direct conversation back to a question that dates back to 2016: to kneel or not to kneel? The athletic brand's choice to highlight the shunned quarterback not only reignites important conversations, but gives Kaepernick the support that the NFL wouldn’t.
From Kaepernick's initial protests back in 2016, to his work with Nike now, those in opposition to his protests have only one leg to stand on when it comes to their argument: the military. After Monday’s announcement, many copycat posts were made replacing the tightly cropped black and white photo of Kaepernick with photos of vets while the original text, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” remained. The problem with this response is twofold.
Firstly, the origin of the infamous kneeling protest is not one rooted in disrespect for the National Anthem, American flag or military, but rather the opposite. In fact, the gesture was created in collaboration with former football player and U.S Army veteran Nate Boyer.
"We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates," Boyer said. "Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother's grave, you know, to show respect. When we're on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security."
Despite this, many still view this action as a sign of disrespect, including President Donald Trump.
“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” Trump said in 2017.
This then brings me to my second point; the willingness to cry disrespect is not only a copout and trivializing Kaepernick’s motives, but it is branding the military as something that it is not. To use the lives and sacrifices of former and active veterans as a guise to support racial injustices desecrates the military more than getting down on a knee ever could.
Those who fight for our nation do so in order to uphold the liberty, justice, freedom, and equality that all are supposed to be granted here in America. Unfortunately, with the police brutality in our streets, mass shootings in our schools and abandoned children at our borders, these promises and values have not been upheld. The kneeling that Kaepernick and many others in support of him have done is a call to action for politicians and policymakers to enact change in a political climate that consistently chooses to turn a blind eye.
For Nike to get behind this is genius, mainly because they are doing something the NFL refused to. In response to collective backlash, the NFL announced that all players on the field must stand during the national anthem or stay in the locker room until it is finished or else a fine will be issued. “Protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic," said the league in a statement.
This response is a less than satisfactory one, especially considering that the racial makeup of the NFL is 70 percent black. Instead of offering support and solidarity to its players and primary money makers, the NFL chose to silence individuals whose communities and peers are directly affected by the injustices in this country.
Nike’s involvement is an example of what needs to be done when the oppressed and marginalized speak out. Those in positions of power, and therefore unaffected by systematic oppression, need to share their platforms so that there is an opportunity for the silenced to speak. Without this type of comradery and partnership, the change that this country needs to see will never happen.