The Daily Illini

Colin Kaepernick is not a traitor

By Jaime Watts, Columnist

Nike recently released an advertisement filled with inspiring athletes and words of encouragement related to its slogan of “Just Do It.” However, the inclusion and voiceover of Colin Kaepernick caused a tremendous amount of controversy, debate and boycotts for the company.

Kaepernick is most known for being the NFL player who kneeled during the national anthem as a way to protest police brutality and the racial inequality that black Americans still experience today. Many people see this form of protest as disrespectful to the flag and the military, while others see it as patriotic.

Before Nike revealed the entire ad campaign, it first released a photo of Kaepernick’s face with text over it saying, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

It only took a sneak peek of the ad campaign for people to start the trend of boycotting Nike by burning their Nike shoes or throwing their Nike products away. This all began to happen before the entire ad was even released.

One Twitter user, Sean Clancy, tweeted a video of him burning Nike shoes with the caption, “First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American flag and the National Anthem become offensive?”

When the ad was released in its entirety, it portrayed a different message than just focusing on Kaepernick’s protest. The main message of the ad explained that even if you are scared to do something, just do it — even if it’s a big risk. There was also the message of dreaming big. There are no messages about kneeling for the national anthem besides using Kaepernick as a sign of support. Kaepernick happens to be an athlete that exemplifies Nike’s message.

The ad also features athletes such as tennis player Serena Williams and soccer player Alphonso Davies, highlighting their trials and tribulations. People may argue that Nike could have used Williams as the spotlight in the ad, but Kaepernick was the perfect choice to focus on. He brings controversy, but also positivity.

If you are going to boycott Nike, at least have the decency to donate your Nike clothes to homeless veterans or any shelter in your area, as many Twitter users have pointed out.

But, both forms of protesting are important to our democracy. We all have the right to burn our clothes from brands we do not like and we also have the right to kneel during the national anthem if we feel the flag does not protect us. It’s unpatriotic of us to stop Kaepernick from protesting in the way he chooses, as we cannot mandate patriotism for our country if a group feels the country is failing them.

The end of the ad states: “It’s only crazy until you do it. Just do it.”

I think we need to switch our attention to what Kaepernick is protesting about rather than focus on the way he is protesting. He is drawing attention to important issues in our society, and we cannot be blindsided by the controversy surrounding his form of protest. What Kaepernick is doing is the most American thing one can do today.

Jaime is a junior in LAS.

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