Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick is out and the Internet, plus some shoes, went aflame. The spot features a variety of athletes overcoming obstacles to achieve success, and closes with former athlete Kaepernick—offering a solid impression of Tom Brady’s sartorial flair—saying, “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough.”
Given that the teaser and other hook for this campaign is “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” it’s not hard to catch what Nike is throwing, even if Kaepernick is the one passing. In case you’ve been blessed enough to spend the past few years in a monastic existence devoid of all contact with the outside world, it’s a reference to Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem, at least when he was still on the sidelines.
Kaepernick’s ostensible purpose for sitting was, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” This was in 2016, the last year he played in the National Football League. He has since sued the league, claiming they colluded to keep him from being signed to another team after exercising his option to leave the San Francisco 49ers at the end of that season. That season, the 49ers coaching staff reviled him so much that he started numerous games, although the lack of a viable option on the bench definitely helped him take snaps.
Since then, he’s stayed in the public eye, remaining committed to his purported mission of criminal justice reform. He even has a website. Not listed on that website is what he’s accomplished. Sure, he’s raised and donated a lot of money, which is laudable. There’s a second website, even, although it’s equally vague on accomplishments.
There is no reason to throw shade on those things. Donating one’s time and money are good. I can’t even fault Kaepernick for having crazy dreams of continuing to collect checks from Nike despite not being an active athlete.
The Canadian Football League did try to woo him, but he also said no to sitting during “Oh, Canada.” The CFL doesn’t pay NFL money, but it’s still an income, one he apparently can live without. Maybe he should hold off on the whole “sacrificing everything” line, especially since he’s getting schooled by another entertainer on actually producing results.
While Kaepernick is working to make sure Kaepernick stays in the spotlight, Kim Kardashian West is taking trips to the White House. She’s made two so far. During her visit on September 5, she made the case for the administration to intervene in the case of Chris Young, a Tennessee man serving life without parole for possession of marijuana and cocaine.
The amounts of both were small, but Young was convicted of conspiring to distribute and, under Tennessee’s “three strikes” law, the sentence was mandatory. The judge who sentenced him stepped down after the case to work to get Young released.
Kardashian West has good reason to make these trips. She’s mentioned on her podcast that Jared Kushner agrees the United States needs criminal justice reform. The Hillary Clinton endorser is also willing to put politics aside in pursuit of results. The last time she did this, she did get results. In late May, Kardashian West visited the White House to discuss Alice Marie Johnson. President Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence the following week.
To review, an ex-NFL quarterback starts sitting on the sidelines during the national anthem around the same time his career starts tanking, embarks on a purported mission to reform the criminal justice system, raises some money that may or may not lead to reform, gets lots of awards and accolades, and continues to get paid by Nike.
A reality star puts herself in the background and goes and gets at least one person released from prison while continuing to work for broader, specific reforms and trying to help other individuals ensnared by flaws in the system. For those keeping score, it’s eminently clear who is doing more here.
Kardashian West believes in something, even if she hasn’t exactly had to sacrifice anything. Her dreams aren’t just crazy, they’re crazy enough. If Nike really wanted us to just do it, they’d have gone with someone like her for their 30th anniversary, someone who is actually doing something, instead of a former player who blames everyone but himself for his premature retirement.
Maybe Nike will see the light and justice will be served for its 40th anniversary. It’s not like 10 years is a long time to wait.