It’s interesting how quickly one can get out-of-touch with the news. Having spent the last week travelling, and being largely in areas with no phone signal, and nowhere near a television, I was blissfully unaware of what was going on in the World for a few days. Now, I do like to remain in the know. I think it is a duty and a service to be conscious of what is happening in the World. Ignorance is dangerous, even lethal, after all. So I have been catching up on things since my return. There are 15 tabs open on my browser right now, and only two of them (including this one) are not news sites.
Nevertheless, while I was away, whenever my phone connected to a Wifi signal, I would receive a deluge of messages, and I would also have a quick browse online. I received and came across a lot of memes/jokes which I didn’t get. After only a few days I was lost as to what they were referring to. News seems to travel very fast these days, often in the form of cynicism and satire. I have often been told by friends that the first they hear about a tragedy is from a blackly-humoured text from me. While none of the confusing messages and pictures I received over the last week fell under that category, I was baffled by references to the Danish football team, chef Rachel Allen, and people burning their Nike gear.
It turned out that the Danish team were in some kind of pay dispute, Rachel Allen’s son was arrested for possession of a rather large package of cannabis, and there has been an anti-Nike protest in the US since last Monday. It is the third of these stories that I want to comment on today.
Ok, an anti-Nike campaign sounds good, does it not? This is a massive corporation with a very spotty record on the treatment of staff at its production facilities. If you haven’t read Naomi Klein’s seminal, and sadly still extremely relevant, No Logo, I highly recommend that you do. While Nike have made, or at least claim to have, some steps in the right direction, these developments have regressed. So, what was the nature of the protest that took off last week? Was it to highlight sweatshop abuses? Animal cruelty? Environmental negligence?
Nope. It was a bunch of pathetic racists protesting Nike’s latest ad. The ad features American Footballer Colin Kaepernick, who left the NFL last year in protest. He had been behind the idea of players ‘taking a knee’ during the playing of the National Anthem before the game, to highlight police brutality committed against African Americans. These protests were widely supported from players and teams, but at the same time lambasted by right-wing nationalists claiming ‘disrespect’ to the anthem, flag, the troops, etc. This outrage was led of course by the white-supremacist-in-chief, who has continued in this vein by now criticising Nike for using Kaepernick in their commercial. Cue his inbred, backward, fucknut followers to start a campaign of burning their Nike shoes, and posting videos of this action online. Though there were reports of one of these idiots accidentally burning his house down while doing so, these reports were false. We can live in hope though, maybe some of them really will burn down their house, or come to a fiery end while undertaking this wasteful endeavour.
I have to admit to being conflicted in two respects in reaction to all of this. To say I am not a fan of Nike is quite the understatement. I avoid their products and have done so for many years. I was upset to learn that they had taken over Converse in 2003. No more Cons for me… Admittedly I do have a couple of football shirts that were made by Nike. Shame on me, though to the best of my knowledge I haven’t bought anything made by Nike or their subsidiaries in over a decade. So, people not buying Nike is a good thing, right? Though people boycotting Nike because they are racist morons is unquestionably not. So, am I to be happy or annoyed that Nike sales actually surged last week? Did this increase happen because of a successful advertising campaign, or because of a counter-protest against the slack-jawed shoe-burners?
Secondly, I have great admiration for Colin Kaepernick. He in fact is my favourite American Footballer of all time. Not that I even watch the sport. I watched the Superbowl once. It was quite entertaining, I did really get into it as the night (and the beers*) went on. My favourite part was still Bruce Springsteen’s half-time performance though. I haven’t followed the game since. Despite this, I heard all about the movement Kaepernick started, and absolutely applaud him for it. However, it is always galling to see people of renown appear in ads to hawk a product. I am firmly with Bill Hicks on that one. I suppose one could argue that Kaepernick has sacrificed his career, so here’s a way of making some money while getting a message across. Not the same message as the protest, but a positive one in any case. However, I would rather that, if he had to do a commercial, it wasn’t for a company with such a morally dubious background.
So, my return to the news cycle has left me somewhat discombobulated. Colin Kaepernick: a hero. Shoe-burning racists: scum. Nike: somewhere in the middle, on this occasion at least? I guess, just to be safe, I’ll continue boycotting Nike products, and at the same time supporting anyone who takes a stand for human rights.