The Daily Iowan

Leonard: Nike and Kaepernick are a match made in heaven

Nike’s decision to use Colin Kaepernick as their spokesperson was the right choice to make.

From+left%2C+San+Francisco+49ers%26apos%3B+Eli+Harold+%2858%29%2C+quarterback+Colin+Kaepernick+%287%29+and+Eric+Reid+%2835%29+kneel+during+the+national+anthem+before+their+NFL+game+against+the+Dallas+Cowboys+on+Sunday%2C+Oct.+2%2C+2016+in+Santa+Clara%2C+Calif.+%28Nhat+V.+Meyer%2FBay+Area+News+Group%2FTNS%29
From left, San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

From left, San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

TNS

TNS

From left, San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

Braxton Leonard, Opinion Columnist

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America is burning. More specifically, various ideals that we pride ourselves on — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to peacefully assemble, to name a few — are being held so frighteningly close to the flames that I sometimes fear they may fade into dust.

As we’ve played with fire, we have been burnt time and time again. When we begin to oppose the freedoms that make us the great nation that we are, we create static from the soundest aspects of our society, and we find ourselves in dangerous territory.

The current political climate has acted as the ultimate divider in a society that needs something to hold it together, now more than ever. Colin Kaepernick has been one of the most polarizing figures in America during this time, inciting greater discussion on what is and isn’t American. The country could be lazily described as a 50/50 split right now: the right and the left, continually butting heads politically in trying to characterize a question that is much too complex to warrant an objective answer.

What exactly does it mean to be an American today?

I don’t think that question can be answered simply, or in words. I think that it can purely be demonstrated in actions, and by the manner in which one lives. While many Americans oppose Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem, which ultimately led to his fall from grace and out of the league, I would argue that his choices embody what it means to be an American. Taking on a role that is bigger than oneself, sacrificing for others, and using your resources to be a beacon for positivity, and equality, are just a few characteristics that have been historically held by the greatest Americans.

Based on the ad that Nike released just over a week ago, I would say that they agree. The powerful ad is narrated by Kaepernick, and features clips of various minorities around the world. In the final seconds of the clip, Kaepernick is shown strolling down the street, when he gives the memorable and controversial sendoff: “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough.”

Nike and Kaepernick both faced extreme backlash for the video, even causing people to burn their Nike gear in anger or defiance. Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick’s actions over the past few years, destroying your perfectly good clothing isn’t the answer. As a large company, Nike is allowed to use whoever it wishes as a spokesperson, and it also reserves the right to take a stance on hot-button political issues if it so chooses.

I think that the greatest argument in defense of Kaepernick’s efforts is that he is taking advantage of his status, recognizing his privilege as a famous athlete and using it to represent something that stretches far beyond the gridiron. He has made a choice to escalate himself from just a typical athlete to one of the most outspoken, risk-taking leaders for an often marginalized and targeted group in America, people of color.

Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick’s actions over the past few years, destroying your perfectly good clothing isn’t the answer.”

Trying to find common ground on Kaepernick’s protest has proven to be abysmal, with arguments against the protests beginning to sound like a broken record. When groups in our nation struggle harder than others to take advantage of the rights and freedoms that people have worked so hard to offer in our country, it is difficult to characterize what the flag represents today and if it holds the same meaning for different groups. Aside from that, the protest has simply never been about the flag, and regardless of the method of protest, it has always been about doing the right thing. 

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