Colin Kaepernick is in the news again, this time for working out a huge deal with Nike as they seek to take a stand on social justice. Now, we could talk about the treatment and pay of the people who make their products, but that’s not the focus of this article. This week we will be looking at the effect on society when a sportswear brand gets involved in social matters. This is not about the kneeling for the anthem, police brutality, racial inequality, social injustice, or anything other than the effect such campaigns have on the fabric of society, all of which are valid and needed discussions, but not for this site.
What we will look at here is the social aspect of what is going on and why, when we (or a corporation), take a stand on a social issue we are also taking on the social responsibility for our actions. What Nike have done is to take a man who is very wealthy and present him as someone who has sacrificed everything. Has he sacrificed? Yes, his career is over. Sacrificed everything? I would be willing to sacrifice everything if “everything” meant being able to retire with tens of millions in the bank as well. Not exactly William Wallace, Joan of Arc or Pat Tillman.
Nike have presented a false martyr and in taking this approach they have become responsible for creating further divide and division in our society. If they cared about social injustice they would be paying the people who make their product a decent income, maybe even a raise to $1.50 an hour? They have joined the growing number of large corporations who are rebranding as political affiliates and social justice advocates instead of being known for producing a high quality product. In some cases this can be a good thing, for example when a company takes a stand on a cleaner environment, this is good for all humans.
But here is the real impact: Monday morning in the classroom one kid shows up with a ton of new Nike branded clothes (or replicas because they can’t afford the real thing but want to support a cause), while another is proudly wearing his New Balance shoes (as worn by Baron Trump). How does this affect the relationship? All of a sudden, two kids who have been friends are now fighting over whether Nike or NB are the best shoes. For what? Because Nike, instead of directly facing the issue or racial inequality and social injustice, have hammered the wedge in a little deeper. Relationships are becoming thin, it is becoming harder for people to share their beliefs and thoughts with others, and our social networks are becoming pods that keep us locked in, not organisms that grow and develop.
This week we will look at how we can work to knock down these walls that divide us (not a reference to border security), and learn to discuss and debate in a healthy way. We can change the world, one starfish at a time.
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – Wear clothes because they may you look good, they are comfortable keep you warm, not because the branding has conned you into believing they stand for something. They wouldn’t do it if they were sacrificing everything and losing money.
2 – Don’t let corporations change your relationships. Your friend is still your friend, even if they have new Nike or NB shoes today.
3 – Go beyond the surface and look at the substance, always. As I have said many times, perception is not reality. Sacrificing everything from a mansion isn’t exactly a sacrifice.
Stay focused on the things that matter. A football player kneeling was never about the flag or the anthem, it was always about racial inequality and police brutality. These are real problems we need to discuss, but as with almost everything else we went off-topic. Don’t be like Nike and drive the wedge a little deeper. Be the good person you are and do one good thing for someone today. Change society by changing your attitude, don’t fall victim to a marketing campaign.