We have always understood, appreciated and supported Kaepernick’s protest because we understand the injustices suffered by people of color. What happened to Kaepernick–his getting shut out of the NFL because he dared to draw attention to the challenges and inequities Black people face in America–was nothing short of another injustice. So make no mistake we’re are elated about his deal with Nike, which reportedly includes shoes, T-shirts and other apparel along with Nike making donations to Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights charity.
And yes, we extend guarded kudos to Nike for making this move. But we have to stop short of calling Nike’s decision “risky” and a “gamble” as it has been characterized by others.
We simply refuse to lose site of the facts. And the chief fact is this–Nike is a major corporation, with annual revenue above $36 billion. It’s nice to see that maybe Nike’s decision makers have a social conscious to go along with the megabucks they rake in each year, but this deal with Colin Kaepernick was a business decision, first and foremost. And if Nike’s leaders had any doubt that it would spell problems for their bottomline in the long run, they wouldn’t have done it.
To be sure, we are more excited about how Colin Kaepernick will use this platform to continue his work than what it means for or about Nike.
Here’s the truth. Within the broad sports apparel market, Nike’s target consumers are between the ages of 15-40. And research suggests that this age group–known now as millennials–are more likely to identify with Kaepernick’s stand and to acknowledge that our country’s problem with race and justice.
Now here is the down and dirty truth. Nike has been getting rich off Black folk for decades now, using Black athletes to promote their brand, capitalizing on the desire of Black youth have swag. When the latest Nike tennis shoes–the high-priced Jordans or the LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant signature kicks hit the market, lines form at shoe stores across the nation. Some people even camp out to make sure they get a pair of the coveted shoes. And those folk, those eager young people trying to cop the latest style look way more like Trayvon Martin, Stephon Clark and Tamir Rice than they do some middle-aged White guy burning a pair of walking shoes.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We aren’t trying to take anything away from Nike. It wasn’t a risk or gamble, but it was smart. All Nike did was put is mouth where its money is. And it’s about time.