‘Just Do It’: The Liberationist Nike-Kaepernick Manifesto

Will the anti-Kaepernick fueled boycotts hurt Nike’s profits in the long run? Doubt it. If anything, the burning of Nike insignia, as a form of political protest, is to be accounted for in response to Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad. When Kaepernick first kneeled during the national anthem, embarking his silent protest against police brutality, progressive activists knew that backlash would follow. Football has always been an emblem of a self-righteous American philosophy, and the Kaepernick kneeling went to denounce this exact conservative morality, engrained in the conservative ideology.

The self-proclaimed virtues instilled in militaristic patriotism and republicanism are embedded in the stars and stripes of the American flag. The America that Kaepernick protested against is the America that better reflects the freedoms and endless opportunities for the already privileged and that America doesn’t quite bear the same protection of black people. It’s a narrative driven by white, male-dominated patriotism. The described patriot goes to express his grievances, as he believes that the kneeling protest is a personal attack against the war hero, which then trivializes the American war hero and the blood, sweat and tears that he endured in battle, which then, from his perspective, devalues his sacrifice, shifting him from brave martyr to militarized automaton.

Modern patriotism has always been cloaked in this primitive notion that the flag emblematizes freedom and sanctity, but the moral question is: freedom and sanctity for who?

To be an American patriot is to be pro-military, is to be pro-God, is to be pro-nationalism, is to secure America’s anchor at the port of the world, with all of its precious cargo— the ammunition, the militarized state thugs, the silver plaques bearing the 10 Commandments in federal government buildings, and the male-charged evangelists who’ve formed new deals with the id-driven tyrants in office.

This narrative is popular among conservative patriots and evangelists, both sectors of the right-wing establishment, which is catapulted by the fear of being over-powered by progressive liberalism. Conservative Republicans know that the only way to silence the voices of the literati movement of POC, shifting the dynamics of governmental power, is through media censorship and mass marketing of conservative propaganda, which instils fear in the already frightened and enraged conservative middle class, persuading this mass that their very liberties are facing threat. Televangelists like Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson and Paul Crouch used these tactics to manipulate their congregants, framing all civil rights issues as the dogmas of socialist mobs and the civil rights activists of the post-colonial era as Stalinesque communists, devil-worshipers whose mission is to corrupt God’s will for America. These falsifications still linger.

Conservatives are frightened by the advancement of the Know Your Rights campaign and Black Lives Matter movement, which Kaepernick embodies. Thus the Nike “Believe-in-something” ad, featuring Kaepernick, is seen as a threat. They’re appalled by Kaepernick’s social advancement, as they were so sure that his firing from the NFL would stalemate his political progress and disintegrate his digital platform. And this is exactly why Nike’s partnership with Kaepernick has incited outrage and protest, ecident in the boycotting and burning of Nike products.

The Nike boycotters claim to do it in the name of patriotism, but the underlying message is one of jingoistic nationalism. Conservatives prioritize their egotistical arrogance over issues of black oppression, black grievances. It posits white superiority over the arbitrary incarceration, as well as murdering of black people in America. It’s a cryptic way of validating one’s resentment toward the ever-growing vigilance practiced by oppressed groups, their diligent pursuit for equal justice under the law and their uncovering of the discriminatory practices grounded in governmental institutions–the ambiguous disenfranchisement and incarceration of POC, as well as the arbitrary killings of POC that is pardoned by the power manifested in the blue badge.

The protests reflect an anti-black sentiment that sees the black athlete’s sole purpose as entertainer. It says, “Take the money, and shut up. You’re young, and rich.” It says that the famed black athlete’s sole purpose is to play the field, pledge the flag with pride and humility, pledge allegiance to the flag of a nation that gives him everything (except his dignity). It says the black athlete is merely a commodity, that he can be the smiling face in a Bud Light Super Bowl ad, but is barred from starting any dialogue on social justice issues, which to the conservative is all part of an agenda to recreate a modern-day black liberationist, Black Panther party. He is the driving force of capitalist ventures and toxic masculinity, a pawn of mass consumerism among die-hard Americans. And once he stops throwing those balls and starts publicizing his political grievances, he’s ostracized and accused of treason. If he express his frustration and pain, he’s punished and said to be succumbing to his instinctual, barbaric nature.

This was never about the American flag. This was and will always be about Colin Kaepernick challenging the establishment’s Eurocentric superiority.

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