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Believe in Something. Even if it means Politicizing Everything.

Cole Thomas, Editor

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Colin Kaepernick has been on a three-season hiatus from the NFL but is still making national news. Depending on your political views, this either amazes or terrifies you.

Nike and Kaepernick teamed up for an ad campaign featuring the former 49er quarterback with the piercing slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Immediately, the nation was thrown into a frenzy. Democrats commended the former Pro Bowler for yet another powerful message by way of the left. Republicans took to social media to tweet their displeasure and post videos of their 10-year-old Air Monarchs going up in flames. Kaepernick’s name has faded away from the gridiron completely and has given identity to a turbulent political climate in our country. Was this a ploy from Kaep to send another message? Was this possibly the greatest political ad to have ever aired? Look at it how you may but when you get down to the nitty gritty of it, there is only one thing for sure.

It is fantastic advertising by Nike.

If you have not already, take a minute (a literal minute, it is a 60 second commercial) out of your day and watch the ad. Once you finish rewind it, pick your favorite athlete, and replace Kaep with them. Is it still political? I’ll bet you all the stock I have in Nike it’s not.

When I saw that commercial for the first time, I found it inspiring. The greatest athletes in the world overcame so much to have their name etched in sport history.

Serena Williams, the best women’s tennis player in history and arguably one of the most athletic human beings to ever walk this earth, overcame daily life in the gang and drug ridden Compton neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles to win 23 grand slam titles.

LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world, fought through the adversity of living with his single mother in Akron, Ohio where he did not know if he would have dinner from one day to the next and not being able to go to elementary school for days on end due to financial and transportation issues.

The list goes on with inspiring story after inspiring story, all following the common theme of overcoming circumstances and adversity to become a great athlete and person.

Why would Colin Kaepernick be any different?  

The baseline knowledge most Americans have on him is he is a former NFL quarterback who took a knee during the national anthem and made the right REALLY mad. He is now a political icon, like it or not.

Here is what you don’t know.

Colin Rand Kaepernick was born to his 19-year-old single mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His mother put him up for adoption soon after he was born. Rick and Teresa Kaepernick adopted Colin after losing 2 children to do heart defects at birth. Colin joined them along with their 2 biological children, brother Kyle and sister Devon.

He began playing football at the age of 9 in Turlock, California. Colin had an incredible aptitude for baseball, as he was the ace pitcher for his high school and received several scholarship offers, but his heart belonged to football.

He was undersized for a college quarterback, only weighing 170 pounds his senior year of high school. Due to this, he only received one scholarship offer, which came from the University of Nevada- Reno in the winter of his senior year.

At Nevada, a school with no real football pageantry, Kaepernick waited his turn to step into the spotlight. When he did, he led the Wolfpack to a national top 25 ranking, the team’s first in several years at the time, and was a two-time Mountain West offensive MVP.

An adopted, undersized, overlooked kid at a small school not known for football took the sports headlines by storm. He was selected in the second round of the NFL draft and took over the starting job in San Francisco in 2013. He led the 49ers to 2 NFC Championships, winning one, and one Super Bowl that they lost to the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

Kaepernick, along with the several athletes featured in this campaign, all share the common thread of overcoming circumstance to be great in their profession. But wait, Kaep hasn’t taken a snap since 2016, how can he be great?

This is where Nikes ingenuity comes in.

Business in 2018 is all about catering to the largest demographic. In today’s America (we will stick to America since it is a US political issue), that demographic is young adults, say ages 18-30, who tend to lean more to the left.

The harsh fact is Colin Kaepernick is not a good quarterback. He had a few good years and then his game dropped off the face of the earth. Just how bad?

According to Pro Football Reference, in 2016 he had a 49.5 quarterback rating while tallying a record of 1-11 in his time as a starter that year. He had a 4-1 touchdown to interception ratio, which I would say is slightly below average. If you want to compare it to the TD-INT leader in 2016, Tom Brady had a 14-1 ratio.  

So just like any NFL front office would do, the 49ers went into rebuild mode, and did not keep Kaepernick around. These statistics are overshadowed by the fact that Kaepernick’s kneeling protest started this same year. Because of the fact that most, if not all NFL owners are rich, conservative white men, it was reasonable to assume that owners did not approve of his protest, so they gave him the boot.

Kaepernick hasn’t been back in the league, and it is assumed by many to be because of his protests. Again, fair. But wouldn’t the hundreds of players who also protested the anthem get the same type of treatment?

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy sat down and stretched in the same line his teammates stood in for the anthem during a 2017 regular season game. Blatant disregard and drawing attention to yourself is much worse than innocently taking a knee. So why is McCoy still in the league? Because he is a good football player. He is a consistent 1,000 yard rusher for Buffalo.

I am not stating these facts as a Republican justifying Kaepernick’s absence from the NFL, rather I am making a statement as a football aficionado who understands what NFL general managers want from their players.  

But why would Nike include a mediocre quarterback to be the face of an ad that includes athletes such as LeBron James and Serena Williams?

It’s simple, they knew business would boom. According to the Washington Post, Nike has had a 31% spike in online sales since the ad ran. They have also gained millions of new followers across all their social media platforms. Wall Street has seen Nike’s stock reach an all-time high. All because of one ad.

They did not mean for it to be political, they only wanted it to seem political. When you read the backstories of all the athletes accompanying Kaepernick in the ad, they all sacrificed (oh, hey, there’s that word again) and overcame the odds to be at the top of their profession. In Colin’s case, he did do this for a brief moment in time, but fell off and is now a political figure, one that America (or liberal America) had come to love. When he represents something, people are drawn to it, and with the US political climate the way it is, Nike took advantage of it to boost their profit, playing everyone like a fiddle in the process.

To boil it down, Nike chose a quarterback, who was on the verge of being an elite player until his game take a nosedive, just a few years removed from winning championships and headlining pro bowls. At the same time as this nosedive, Kaepernick began his protest, receiving both praise and backlash. At the end of a disappointing season, his time in San Francisco was done, but his political voice continued to be broadcasted throughout the nation.

Seeing the ways in which people responded to his, dare I say, campaign, Nike thought it was time to play the politics game with potential clientele. They created an inspirational slogan and had their already signed athletes (LeBron, Serena, and others) make a cameo in their new ad, but that was not the splash. It was their new golden boy that was there for the sole purpose of having his inspirational rise to the top of the athletic world help Nike sell gear. They knew people would see Kaepernick and they knew they would take it politically, despite it not being political, and follow him. Consequently, Nike’s pockets got even deeper.

No matter where you stand on the subject, there is no denying that this may be the greatest marketing scheme in the history of modern business. If you see a way to boost your profit, why wouldn’t you do it? They knew where people’s minds would go with Kaepernick’s face plastered everywhere. And that place was the checkout page on their website.

So Nike, I commend you for this ingenious stunt. You pulled a fast one on 325.7 million of the most politically aggressive people in the world. This scheme can’t be duplicated, and if another brand tries to imitate it, I believe it would fail horribly. Nike blazed a trail only they can walk on.

Happy shopping American athletes. Whether you are pilling bags with swooshes into the backseat of your car or boycotting Nike all together, please realize that you are not only witnessing the greatest marking stunt ever, you are a part of it.

Now if only they would make some size 18 shoes…

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About the Writer
Cole Thomas, Editor

Cole Thomas, a senior at Bishop Blanchet, is in his second year on “The Miter” staff, his first as an editor.

Cole gave a fresh perspective to The Miter last year with his in depth look on the sports world, giving a unique look at many professional and collegiate leagues that go beyond the play on the field. A consistent reader of popular sports websites such as ESPN, Bleacher Report, and 247 Sports, Cole hopes to one day turn his passion into a career and write for one of these sites.

He also enjoys writing on current events and reviews of “hidden gem” restaurants around the greater Seattle area. Cole hopes to earn a degree in journalism by using the skills he has learned from his 2 years at The Miter after high school. He also hopes to play college football.

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Believe in Something. Even if it means Politicizing Everything.