In a world saturated with movements such as #metoo, #shoutyourabortion, and #lovewins, I am forced to ask myself if today’s activists truly understand the impact of their actions. One athlete’s decision to kneel for the National Anthem to protest racial inequality by law enforcement has undoubtedly started a two-year (and counting) wave in which everyone from individual citizens to global corporations have joined the protest.
I’m sure you have seen Nike’s 30th anniversary Just Do It campaign, but, if not, it is a grayscale photo of Colin Kaepernick with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” While this grammatically incorrect campaign is surely impactful, what is the underlying message behind the idea of “sacrificing everything?” Is Nike suggesting that risking a career as a NFL quarterback for more fame and praise is even remotely similar to the sacrifices made by those that put their lives on the line to defend our great nation?
I recognize that our service members do what they do to protect everyone’s, including Colin Kaepernick’s, rights to Free Speech. I also recognize that people of color frequently experience oppression and inequality by officials in our country. Those feelings are valid and I commend anyone who is willing to stand up for what they believe in. HOWEVER, it is no secret that with great power comes great responsibility and a statement like the one Kaepernick made, and Nike endorsed, requires an extensive amount of consideration for the consequences to follow.
While plenty of individuals support the protest as nothing more than Free Speech, several others are incredibly disappointed by not only the disrespect for a hard-earned symbol of America, but also the reminder that the tragic political divide within our nation has now spilled over into recreation.
I strongly believe that this protest could have been handled much more respectfully and with more consideration toward those who have fought and continue to fight to protect American freedom. As a famous athlete, Kaepernick already had a stage to voice his beliefs and he did not need to disrespect our flag to get his message out. Let me reiterate that I have no problem with the fact that Kaepernick protested an injustice of this world, I simply believe that disrespecting the flag in the process was completely uncalled for and something that the American people should take note of when making decisions as consumers.
For a more practical application of what we as individuals can do with these disappointments of the disrespect shown to our flag and those who protect it, I urge anyone and everyone that identifies as an American to pay close attention to their consumption habits. How is it that celebrities and corporate giants such as Kaepernick and Nike have the influence they do? We, as consumers, willingly give them our attention.
Many people have taken this controversy as fuel to boycott the NFL, many others have let this controversy lead them to boycotting Nike products. While this is an important step, I challenge you to consider what leading figures are receiving your support and ultimately, your money. Research your favorite brands and what causes they are supporting.
It is okay to stand behind an athlete, actor, singer, or brand that you enjoy, but it is our responsibility as American citizens and consumers to have high standards and set firm expectations for the politicians, celebrities, and companies that are representing us worldwide.
Many responses have surfaced in the wake of Nike’s endorsement of Kaepernick, perhaps the most notable being that of Pat Tillman with the same slogan over the image. The popular opinion about this image is that Tillman is someone who knows much more about sacrificing everything as an NFL player turned service member that gave his life to defend our nation. Are sacrifices like this not much more worthy of our respect?
We as Americans have a duty to exercise our rights, Free Speech being one of them, but we also have a duty to recognize that the Kaepernick protest crossed a line. Generations before us made sacrifices to mold and preserve the America that we enjoy today and we have an obligation to do the same for generations to come.
If we do nothing to uphold the respect that our nation rightly deserves, then who will? Let’s not allow the partisan divide that has molded our present culture to ruin the best nation in the world for the generations to come. For if we are not proud to be Americans, then who will be?
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.