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Should Nike have chosen Tillman instead?

By Brendan Crowley
On September 11, 2018

Ahhh, nothing like a controversy in sports. I love it. The debates, the analysis, the shock when it first shows up on your Twitter feed. To an avid sports fan it’s heaven. Especially when the same controversy has been going on for… well, almost two years.

It was 2016 when Colin Kaepernick first decided to protest — or to some, disrespect our country — by taking a knee during the National Anthem. The internet exploded. Many applauded him for exercising his First Amendment right to freedom of expression. Others hated the way he went about it.

Kaepernick, who was once a starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was at the time a backup. Now, he can’t even get a job as the third stringer. He protested social issues, specifically the way minorities were being treated in the United States. He did so by kneeling during our country’s anthem. The debates surfaced on whether or not that was the right way to go about protesting social issues. Some loved it, some were absolutely pissed.

Apparently, Nike loved it.

Last week, Nike unveiled their new promotion – and their new face of the company. Colin Kaepernick.

The ad read, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Kaep’s face serves as the background in an aesthetic black and white. He was also featured in a commercial during the opening game of the 2018 NFL season.

Bold move, Nike. Risky. Powerful. I mean, they must have known what they were getting into, right? Their stock plummeting, the burning apparel videos, they must have expected the backlash. But I mean it’s not all bad. LeBron James, basically the most popular and probably most powerful athlete in the world, pledged his support for the ad. Maybe that will make things better? Maybe?

I know Lebron James’ support certainly did not change my decision. Not in the slightest. I have always argued against Kaepernick. Yes, I certainly believe that minorities should not be oppressed and something needs to happen to change that. But the National Anthem? How can you whole-heartedly make the conscious decision to kneel during that song when there are soldiers out there sacrificing their lives for our country? How can you witness a crowd of tens of thousands of people stand and cheer for a veteran before the Anthem, and then seconds after sit down and blatantly disrespect his honor and courage?

When I saw that Nike ad all I could say is wow. I was shocked. I didn’t even have the mental ability to form an opinion because I was mentally speechless. But let me tell you, when I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw those same words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” displayed over a background of Pat Tillman, then I knew I was pissed.

Tillman literally sacrificed everything when he believed in something. He did not just sacrifice his starting role on an NFL team, he sacrificed his damn life. And he lost his life defending our beloved country. He represents all of the soldiers who have lost their lives fighting for us. But oh, give the credit to Colin Kaepernick, the man who took a knee.

Nike just does not care. They don’t care at all. They’re a multi-billion-dollar company, they could not care less about the stocks or the burnt apparel (I mean they already earned their money on those so it literally means nothing to them). They did their research, they understood the consequences, and they made the calculated decision to run this ad because they do not care at all. The backlash will maybe be a light flick to the arm for them. Yet they did not think once about who the National Anthem represents.

Maybe a few guys kneeling did not bother those servicemen and women. Obviously it’s upsetting, but it’s only a few guys out of seven billion! But now, there’s a whole corporation against them. This is a whole new level of disrespect.

Nike could have represented both sides of the story. They could have made some reference to the soldiers, maybe an ad involving both Tillman and Kaepernick? The message would have been profoundly different. Yes, it is okay to protest social issues, but at the same time we should also remember those who the National Anthem represents. That would change everything. But no, it’s all about Kaepernick.

So now the controversy is bigger and badder than ever. One man protested, one man disrespected, but now it’s a lot more than one man. It’s a corporation. It’s Nike. After this sort of support Colin Kaepernick, I sure hope you take immense measures to fight for what you believe in. I hope you do whatever it takes to make a difference in our country.

Tillman lost his life doing that.

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