OPINION: The Nike Protests Are Racist and Nonsensical

By: Naomi Metoyer
OwlFeed Editor-in-Chief

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a revolution back in the 2016 preseason when he knelt for the national anthem in a peaceful protest of racial injustice and police brutality in America. Now, two years later, despite losing his job and receiving the ridicule of half a nation, Kap is back as the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, and I would have it no other way.

xxx-cp-colin-kaepernick-nike_133.jpgWhen it was announced on Sept. 3rd that the disgraced athlete had signed on with the famous brand, mixed fan and customer reactions ensued. Some were appalled, denouncing Nike for endorsing such an anti-American menace, while others were overjoyed and eager to support such a revolutionary stand against injustice. Some were torn — but all were shocked.

The same people who opposed Kap’s —  and 200 other players’ — peaceful protest the last two years have begun their own “protest” in the form of burning Nike products. Supporters of the Nike protest claim many things as the source of their hate toward Nike’s decision and Colin’s cause. Claims of respect to veterans and protection from anti-American propaganda are only two of the more popular ones.

These protesters of Nike and the NFL tell the world that this is nothing more than the culmination of factors such as misguided patriotism or, according to my parents, the extreme reverence bestowed on the flag in previous generations. Yet, I find it difficult to ignore the blatant racism that has been evident throughout this entire ordeal.

This controversy has NEVER been about what is should have been about: police brutality and racial injustice. It was never a debate of whether or not such tragedies existed. Colin Kaepernick was not fired for his belief that African Americans are being murdered at an alarming rate by our law enforcement. No, this issue was never what is was meant to be about.

A protest that was originally meant to shed light on a horrible epidemic in our country has resulted in little actual talk of the grievances Kaepernick had. The narrative turned away from this fact–perhaps because we all know it to be true and refuse to find ways to fix it– and is now focused rather on debating Kaepernick’s Constitutional right to protest, and not the actual issue at hand.

If Colin had been a white man protesting the president’s sexism or the offenses made upon the lower classes, I am positive these silent, non-violent, MLK-esque protests would have been met with far more support from the general public, most notably the overwhelming amount of white citizens who make up most of Colin’s opposition.

Except this is not what happened. Yet again, the same group of white Americans has pushed the grievances of the African-American community under the rug by finding fault with the means by which they went about voicing it.

“Damn can u be this mad about police brutality,” Chance the Rapper asked on Twitter on Sep. 4, quoting a viral video of a Nike “protester” burning a pair of running cleats. He is effortlessly critical of the illogical and racist propaganda of the Nike protesters, calling them out for focusing their energy on silencing Kaepernick’s voice instead of the issue at hand.

Disconnected from all of that is the fact that these so-called protesters are not accomplishing anything by destroying Nike merchandise they have already purchased. While Kap’s protest has raised awareness in a peaceful and meaningful way without actively spreading hate, these naysayers are actually being quite hypocritical

Many of these Nike “protesters” are acting in this way under the justification that kneeling for the national anthem is disrespectful to those who have fought, and possibly died, for our country. They are claiming Colin’s freedom of expression is dishonoring veterans, and yet here they are burning perfectly good shoes and clothes that could be donated to the thousands of homeless and struggling veterans all over our divided nation.

His sentiments are, unsurprisingly, supported by more than one demographic, but there is one that is very dear and important that needs to be acknowledged.

“I’m okay with this,” said Troy Timmer (@TimmerTroy) on Twitter on September 3rd, following the announcement. “As a veteran, I served so others could have the right to free speech and the right to protest. It doesn’t matter if we like/ don’t like the way it is. And I DON’T feel disrespected. I feel more disrespected that our country still lets vets go homeless.”

I wonder what these supposed champions for veterans’ justice have to say about this. Once again, these “patriots” have failed to either make sense or stand for what they claim to believe in.

But beyond this, and much more importantly, these protests have no purpose. They are simply protesting for the sake of protest, because these individuals feel they need to make it known, not their disagreement with the issue Kaepernick is speaking on, but their disagreement with his fundamental right to protest at all.

This country, from the start, was built on ideas such as safety, liberty, and equality.

One of these such liberties has always been, since the addition of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, the right to freedom of expression, “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” according to the First Amendment. And, tell me, what has Kaepernick or any of his supporters done throughout this entire controversy other than express their disappointment and grief at the current state of the union?

“Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything,” Colin told Americans everywhere in the Nike ad he starred in. And he did.

A large group of Americans citizens have been deprived of their safety and lives, a right wrongfully taken away by individuals who vowed to protect it. Seeing this injustice, this man, who had worked for years to gain the following and influence he had, sacrificed his own career and fame, his passion, to voice his discontent with the killing of his fellow Americans.

Without bloodshed or hate speech, this man used his own success to highlight the failings of our nation. And what kind of “free nation” are we if we refuse to acknowledge this man’s right to do so? What kind of nation are we if every issue found is met, not with solutions, but with opposition and denial?