Colin Kaepernick and Nike Advertisement
Peoples’ intention with protests is for their voice to be heard about a particular idea that they believe in. A way to do that is to create a bold, striking image. In recent years, race and police brutality have been very prominent and controversial in the media. In 2016 during an NFL game, Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem. He claimed that he was “not going to stand up to show pride to a country that oppresss black people and people of color” when asked why he made this bold move. Many people all around the country decided to not support him because they felt as though it was a sign of disrespect to the nation. Although he explained his stance on the situation, many still refused to comply with his beliefs. This caused Kaepernick to lose his spot on his team in the NFL, but that never stopped him. Instead, it gathered millions of supporters to join in protest.
In 2018, Nike sporadically posted an ad campaign with Colin Kaepernick as the face of it. The words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” were written across his face with their coined slogan “Just Do It.” written at the bottom. This ad is presenting a powerful message that even though people may not have believed in him and although he lost opportunities, he gained respect and even greater opportunities. This is such a striking protest to me because it was so unexpected and is still visually rhetorical beyond the words. The fact that it is him with his hair in an afro and turtleneck, is blatantly an ode to black power. It is defying the opposition for a greater mission. It explores the identity of a black person in their true form. The idea of hair in America itself, is a statement. Many black people in the workplace feel the need to conform to society’s standards of what is “professional”. Dread locs, afros, cornrows, etc., are all looked at as unkempt and unpleasant to look at. Kaepernick is breaking that mold of conformity and expressing himself through his hair. Many people who were part of the Black Panther Party protested in afros and turtlenecks which leads me to believe that Kaepernick’s appearance was intentional and was an ode to that movement. He is sending a message that people of color must fight for their rights, as the Black Panthers did. Although hair is not as important in Kaepernick’s profession, it is still important to note that this protest makes a connection to the workforce and mistreatment of POC. The fact that the image is in black and white stood out to me a great deal. Although color is such weighted topic in America, Nike wanted to focus on the idea that color is less important than character, as it should be. A protest must be striking in order to be effective. Cartwright and Sturken point to representation and the use of language and images to create meaning. They argue that “we make meaning of the material world through understanding objects and entities in their specific cultural contexts….. the material world has meaning and can be ‘seen’ by us only through representation” (Sturken, Cartwright, 12). The way we see and understand things all comes from the way we have been taught to interpret them. Things carry representation based on the way the world works. If everyone says something is a certain way, most people will believe that the things is indeed that way. Many people claimed to hate Nike and that they would no longer be getting their business after this because they did not agree with this campaign, but their sales sky rocketed after the ad and people usually only stick to these opinions for a quick second. Many times people follow certain ideals without fully understanding why. This is because of their associations and their representations and constructions of the world. They care, but not enough; especially because it is not inconveniencing Nike as a result. This ad would have been as effective without the quote because there is an unspoken understanding of how “Just Do It” relates to Kaepernick, but the quote makes it even more effective. Nike is such an influential part of the 21st century “American” experience that when one sees the check symbol, they automatically associate the words “just do it” so if the ad just included their symbol on the image of Kaepernick, people would still understand the message and be affected by it. This is a bold, risky statement and shows how the word striking can truly be demonstrated in the form of protest and advertisement at the same time.