Naturally, Americans are up in arms because Nike chose to put the face of Colin Kaepernick on the front of their 'Just Do It' campaign. After the announcement, people took to social media to express their outrage, announce a boycott, and literally light fires.
This protest is as ironic has it his hypocritical. First off, it is important to clarify that choosing to not watch football or not purchase Nike attire or burn your shoes, because someone did something you disagree with is entirely your choice and your choice alone. Just like NFL players can make the decision to kneel during the anthem, you can make the decision to change the channel or buy Adidas. It's called freedom, it is awesome, and it is highly recommended.
Now on to the hypocrisy. Colin Kaepernick became famous in 2016 when he risked and eventually sacrificed his career after he decided to take a knee during the national anthem to draw attention to problem of police brutality in America. This protest eventually spread to other NFL players and it kicked off a firestorm of controversy, hatred, and sent the NFL's ratings to historic lows.
After last year's season ended, this sentiment lay festering in the back of everyone's minds until this Sunday when Nike made their announcement. Up in arms, supposed "patriots" began calling for the boycott of Nike and destroying their clothing because a kneeling football player is somehow disrespectful to this country.
But is kneeling more disrespectful to "the troops" than taking to social media and destroying a pair of shoes that could've been donated to a homeless veteran? Is Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem more disrespectful to the troops than calling for his freedom of speech, his constitutional rights that the troops ostensibly fight for, to be removed?
What's more disrespectful, kneeling to protest people being killed by police or taking to social media to gloat about the fact that you can burn a $100 pair of sneakers while a homeless veteran you claim to "support" goes hungry, walking the streets in laceless boots with holes in them, as his feet bleed from blisters?
Burning goods that could've gone to a homeless veteran—whose country chewed him up and spit him out—in protest to someone's freedom of speech, which that veteran fought for, is not only an insult to the troops, but it highlights just how hypocritical some folks are when they claim to "support the troops."
The divide and conquer identity politics being pushed on people is coming to a head and people are literally burning things. The talking heads on TV are forcing people to take sides and people are attacking others for doing nothing other than practicing free speech—in a country that was founded on it. This goes both ways too, with the left and the right.
If it’s police brutality they are protesting, where were most of these folks when Obama was in office? It’s not like police brutality and racist policing practices suddenly became an issue once Trump took over in 2017. Where were all these NFL players when Obama was filling prisons with black people for possessing a plant? Where were all these NFL players when Obama continued to wage the drug war which is proven to lay far more waste to the rights of those with darker skin than to those with lighter skin? Outside of just a few of them, they were nowhere to be found, that’s where.
Conversely, the folks that are angry at these football players taking knees and Nike—because it disrespects our country, our troops and our veterans—are missing the point entirely. Again, these folks have every right to voice their opinion, be angry, and boycott the NFL and Nike. It’s called freedom, and it’s awesome, and it's highly recommended.
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That being said, if a person taking a knee during a song is disrespectful to our troops and veterans, what, exactly, is it considered when 307,000 of those veterans die waiting for care they were promised by this country? If a person taking a knee during a song or Nike using one of these people in an ad is disrespectful to those who fought for our country, what is it considered when that country looks the other way when there over 40,000 of those veterans living on the streets with no home? If taking a knee at a football game is disrespectful, what then, is it considered when Americans remain silent as a veteran kills himself or herself every 65 minutes, every single day, every single month, of every single year?
If this song and flag represent the land of the free and people kneeling down makes others angry because it is an insult to that freedom, then how does one view the NSA surveillance grid? Is Nike using Kaepernick in an ad worse than the United States of America creating the largest spying network the world has ever seen—one that the Stasi would’ve killed for—and using it on innocent Americans?
Is a Nike ad more offensive than the TSA groping babies, cancer patients, the elderly, and the disabled, despite never stopping a terror attack? Is a Nike ad more offensive to freedom than the United States creating, maintaining, and financing the largest prison population the world has ever seen through the enforcement of victimless crimes?
Is a rich ex-football player kneeling really that much more offensive than the Commander in Chief making one of the largest weapons deals in the history of the US with the largest state sponsor of terror in the world, Saudi Arabia? Is a knee more offensive than calling Saudi Arabia our ally after they were exposed for financing the horrific attacks on 9/11?
Where is the outrage? Why aren't people burning their MAGA hats after Trump gave weapons to a country that is using them to murder children, or calling for the removal of due process to confiscate guns? Instead of burning Nike shoes, why aren't people directing their energy at the government who actually disrespects troops and allows them to die waiting for healthcare, kills them as they suffer from PTSD, and cages them when they try to self-medicate with a plant.
If we can agree on one thing in this sea of vitriol and disagreement, let us remember that this country was born through protest. Slavery ended because of protest. The Declaration of Independence was a protest. It was not order-following blind compliance and chest pumping obedience to the state that created America—it was disobedience and it will always be the peacefully disobedient that foster change.