Nike boycotters miss point of peaceful protest


There’s five pairs of shoes in there, I’m going to let them all burn,” Twitter user AlterAtYeshiva says over a tinny recording of the national anthem as he shoves his Nike sneakers into a fire pit. “Because Nike decided to make Colin Kaepernick their ambassador when he doesn’t share the opinions of the people.”

Earlier this month, Nike selected NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick as the face of their 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan. Kaepernick, who gained national scrutiny for sitting down during the national anthem in protest of racism and police brutality toward people of color, is considered persona non grata by many American conservatives, including President Donald Trump who urged NFL owners to fire players who protest. The backlash against Nike’s decision to sponsor Kaepernick encapsulate the jingoist, nationalist and racist attitudes that envelop America. While watching videos of people burning their already-paid-for sneakers and snipping the swoosh logo of their socks might seem funny and a pathetic attempt at boycotting, these actions belie the infuriating reality that the people and president of this nation are willing to accept and support abject racism. And this isn’t a case of simply a few internet wackjobs who are boycotting Nike; police agencies and town councils have resolved to stop purchasing Nike products over perceived slights to law enforcement.

The criticism that is always lobbed at the protestors who topple statues and block highways is that they are not protesting “the right way,” and that they have to be peaceful and civil in order to be effective. What is less disruptive and a more peaceful form of protest than kneeling in silence during the national anthem? The outrage over Kaepernick’s protesting is indicative that people’s objections were never truly over how resistance was being carried out, but rather entirely about maintaining a status quo.

Furthermore, it is important that Americans reconsider why we stand for the national anthem in light of this event. America has a problem with nationalism. Nationalism is not synonymous with patriotism; being proud of your country and its people is one thing, but being unquestionably loyal to a questionable government is another. We have kids say the pledge of allegiance prior to classes, sing the national anthem before sports games and possess near-reverence for members of the armed forces. But how can we be expected to be unfailingly proud of our country in the wake of militarism, racism and, as Kaepernick said, “people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” In a society that is so overtly nationalist, kneeling during the Star-Spangled Banner on the fêted stage of the NFL is a powerful statement. The die-hard nationalists who are destroying their shoes either aren’t looking at or do not care for the bigger picture; Kaepernick’s protest was never about the national anthem. It was always about civil rights. And if you’re willing to cut a logo off your clothes because you don’t think someone should be peacefully protesting against police brutality, then you probably deserve to be walking around with your basketball shorts looking mutilated.

While I’m not about to hand kudos down to Nike, a company notorious for sweatshop use that is likely making a killing from this media exposure, at least there was a lesson to be gleaned from this fiasco. So please, continue to burn your Nike merchandise. Hopefully the fire will keep you warm and toasty after you incinerated all your socks.