STORY BY MAKENNA ALLEN
Just one tweet and the debates began. Was it right? Was it wrong? Was Nike’s decision to sign former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a figurehead of their 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” Campaign a grab at attention? These questions inundated the media with a firestorm of controversy after Kaepernick shared the first campaign photo via Twitter, Monday, Sept. 3.
Though the news is just days old, the Kaepernick controversy dates back to 2016 when he began kneeling during the National Anthem. Kaepernick made yet another appearance in the national news this year, however, when he launched a lawsuit against the NFL for colluding against him in order to prevent him from receiving a contract.
The arguments surrounding Kaepernick and his actions prove polarizing for many groups of people. Nevertheless, Nike took the risk of signing the former football player in a move that ABC News believes is characteristic of the company’s marketing style.
“Some see the ads as a risk for the company, but experts say Nike has been known to embrace public controversy,” (ABC News).
Even though this decision falls in line with Nike’s previous behavior, the question remains: will the risk be worth the reward?
Kevin Draper, Julie Creswell, and Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times believe that Nike is already reaping the benefits as the controversy of this week alone has generated an estimated $43 billion in free advertising for the company’s products.
Members of the Fort Hays community share this view that a portion of Nike’s decision to utilize Kaepernick was a grab at free advertising.
“The part of me as a human wants to say, ‘You know, they wanted to do it to bring light to the situation but the critic and the business side of me wants to say, ‘Oh, let’s get somebody who’s controversial so we’ll get more air time, more marketing,’” student, Zane Sweeten, said.
Dr. Ginger Loggins of the Informatics department echoes this sentiment.
“Nike is trying to be cool and Kaepernick is cool,” Loggins said. “Controversy is cool, particularly among millennials.”
Though many share this common opinion when it comes to monetary motive, the debate regarding Kaepernick’s actions and Nike’s subsequent decision to work alongside the controversial figure has reached the halls of Fort Hays.
Some students, such as Averi Wilson, feel that Nike’s choice negatively impacts their view of the company.
“Personally, I feel like it was a bad mistake because I lost respect for them because I don’t really respect Kaepernick,” Wilson said.
Sweeten, however, presents an opposing view.
“I was actually pretty ecstatic because I don’t know personally what it feels like to be oppressed, to go through what they go through but I know what he stands for and I know that it’s not him disrespecting the flag, like a lot of people say he is,” Sweeten said. “It’s him trying to take a stand for the oppressed and I don’t think a lot of people understand that.”
Loggins offers yet an alternative interpretation of the situation as she believes that the issue is more deeply rooted than Nike’s deal with a polarizing football player.
“I don’t think of it as saying anything about the statement,” Loggins said. “I think the protest is because of the amount of racial inequity in our country.”
In the name of this inequality, Miami Dolphins wide receivers, Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, both took a knee during the National Anthem prior to the team’s season opener, Sunday, Sept. 9. Kaepernick spoke out in support of the two athletes furthering the campaign he began two years ago.
Even as Americans take sides regarding this argument and Nike’s support of Kaepernick, the market will tell the true outcome of this controversial decision. Meanwhile, consumers will continue to monitor the media for the next tweet.