Let’s face it. We live in an over-politicized time where many injustices go unnoticed, brutalized, tampered with or belittled.
Colin Kaepernick, previously signed NFL player to the San Francisco 49ers, has become the face of Nike’s new “Just Do It” campaign alongside other diverse athletes.
His open protesting against police brutality in the United States has set him apart from the conventional narrative of national athletes. In Nike’s campaign, he quotes the phrase, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” There are opinions coming at every angle of this topic whether it be about Kaepernick himself, corporations using activism for marketing or the meaning of freedom of speech.
As a first generation daughter of a refugee, bi-racial college student, I know one thing is for sure. There is power and purpose behind Kaepernick and his action to take a knee. There is a more personal context behind this break-out slogan.
Kaepernick is not attacking veterans, the military or the American flag.
Kneeling, in many circumstances, is not viewed as a disrespectful act, but the contrary.
Kaepernick is sending a message to the lives who are not receiving the liberty, justice and humanity they deserve, that they were “guaranteed” by being in the “United” States of America.
He is drawing attention to the cause, not meaning anything malicious.
With this new contract, Nike will be donating money to Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights” campaign. According to Caroline Burke’s “Colin Kaepernick's Net Worth: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” the campaign “is fully funded by Kaepernick and aims to educate, empower and instruct youth on how to interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.” Prior to the campaign, Kaepernick had been donating money from his season earnings to organizations working in oppressed communities.
Kaepernick is an example of using your own success and position to bring it back to your community and where you come from, because that is partly the reason we get anywhere.
People from underrepresented backgrounds and identities often have a mentality of entering an establishment, such as university, and while being a part of it, to also stand against it when valid, not trying to conform to it either.
These places were not institutionally built for women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, low income and first generation. For that reason, going to college is a revolutionary act. Every time a student from an underrepresented background steps into that classroom, it is an investment in greatness and a changing culture. They represent their neighborhoods and families and fight against some of the age-long discrimination that still affects our country’s decisions and that has contributed to generational trauma.
Whether you notice it or not, there are people with this mindset walking around every college campus. It is important for administration, its students, faculty and staff to acknowledge this and provide fitting resources so these students can best grow. This should also be a point of connection between different groups because everyone has a reason for why they are at college. Some of those reasons are going to be different. We need to be cognizant of that.
It looks like Nike has made strides to be an actor in inclusivity and social change. However, it is important, especially as students, to stay critical of big corporations and what they are doing in terms of workers’ rights, equality, production and environmental action- certain things can easily go unseen.
Among the backlash, there are protestors who are trying to boycott Nike, burning their brand-new pairs of shoes.
It is interesting that attention has risen surround Kaepernick and Nike but not around Nike’s ethics over time.
Looking at our campus, Gonzaga’s own chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops has been making efforts in pushing our university to review what their contracts with these companies mean and whether or not it is the right choice, considering our mission, to uphold them. Last year, students got GU to update the contract to include labor code standards which stand up for women worker’s rights in factories.
Even with all the circling topics around this campaign, I think about the bigger significance of Kaepernick’s actions. This is for the Black Lives Matter movement and standing in solidarity with the message they are trying to get across, to enforce civil rights, and to change what is unjust and the Nike campaign has at the very least, given this cause a huge media platform.
Melina Benjamin is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @ melina_benj.