Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ 30th Anniversary Kneels for something.
30-years ago Wieden+Kennedy founder, Dan Wieden coined the Nike slogan “Just Do It”. The slogan, Wieden said at the time, was inspired by Gary Gilmore’s last words: “Let’s do it.” Gilmore was an American criminal who gained attention for demanding the implementation of his death sentence for two murders he committed in Utah. Gilmore, who was the first person in the United States executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty, was executed by firing squad in 1977. His case created a national debate over the revival of capital punishment. 30-years later, Nike is entering another national debate: the right for black athletes to protest peacefully.
Yesterday, Nike unveiled their most recent “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who became a national figure when he chose to kneel on one knee rather than stand while the United States national anthem was being played before the start of NFL games. His choice to kneel was a protest against racial injustice in the United States. It was and is not a protest against the U.S. flag, the military or the American people, despite factitious and distracting cries from President Donald Trump and Republicans.
Nike’s bold decision to stand by Kaepernick should not be a surprise — yet for many on the Internet, it is. A bit of a newsflash for those shocked and angry. Nike has built their business on the shoulders of some of our greatest athletes. You can’t think of Nike or Michael Jordan without thinking of the other. The “Just Do It” campaign helped Nike increase the share of their domestic sports shoe business from 18% to 43% in just the first ten years, from 1988-1998.
With this campaign, Nike, again, is firmly standing with its athletes and in many ways with the American people — whether you realize it yet or not. And they have for the most part since they first created the “Just do it” campaign. Many will say this is just a way for Nike to make more money. I would reply so what? Others will say that Nike shouldn’t wade into the political debate. I would respond that Nike has since they were created and as an iconic American company that employees 74,400 people and had revenue over $34Billion a year they have just the same right to enter this debate or any debate as you or I do.
Furthermore, professional athletes are people too. They too, have to face adversity. Saying an athlete should focus on playing their sport and not talk about politics or news is a way to silence them. It is a way to say they don’t matter, or their lives don’t matter as much as yours. You presumably have a job that is not in politics so does that mean you don’t have a right to speak up when you disagree? Athletes aren’t objects to which we own — despite what some NFL owners think. Silencing athletes is a way of asserting that their opinions don’t matter as much as yours. Imagine telling Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Sandy Koufax, Billie Jean King or Jesse Owens to shut up and focus on their sport? Where would we all be if they didn’t step forward when they did?
And yes I am saying Colin Kaepernick is every part of this group of esteemed athletes and American civil rights leaders. When you try and silence him, you are trying to silence everyone before him. You are saying everyone came before him and challenged the status quo and demanded that everyone should be treated the same, don’t matter. If you disagree with Kaepernick, you are saying you shouldn’t have the right to speak up either. There is nothing more American than peacefully protesting. There is nothing more un-American than telling someone their voice doesn’t matter.
For those still unsure what Kaepernick is protesting and refuse to take his word on it, I suggest you watch Beto O’Rourke’s, a Texas gubernatorial candidate, explanation. This explanation went viral:
‘I can think of nothing more American.’ — Beto O'Rourke — the man taking on Ted Cruz — brilliantly explains why NFL players kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful pic.twitter.com/bEqOAYpxEL
For all those who are upset with Nike, just look at how other athletes are applauding Nike’s new campaign. They seem to be for a company that is willing to put them first. A company that is willing to put people first.