Just Did It: Nike Enters the Racial Injustice Conversation

By now, I assume you already have an opinion about those who kneel in protest during the national anthem.  I understand there are strong emotions on both sides (I have them!), but what I do not understand is why we are focusing on a particular narrative that totally bypasses the issue at hand.

You may not like the delivery of the message. Protests by nature are meant to be inconvenient and attention seeking. However, I have a hard time imagining a more peaceful way of garnering attention than kneeling in silence.  We know why Colin Kaepernick started this and why numerous other athletes continue to kneel. They are TELLING US why they are doing it.  So how did the narrative become people of color vs. veterans? Or people of color vs. the police? Those narratives are distractions and the fact that we’re willing to accept them reflects the systematic oppression that plagues our country.

We live in a culture that was built on white supremacy. As a white woman I’ve benefited from this my entire life. I don’t get anxious glances when I’m in a store or walking down the street. People think I’m “nice” just by existing. It would be easier not to consider these advantages and frankly it’s uncomfortable to confront our own biases.  But can you imagine watching your family members die simply because their mere existence is perceived as a threat?

I’m a mom.  I love my boys fiercely and would stop at nothing to protect them. I CANNOT imagine worrying about whether or not my sons might die if I let them play with a toy gun in a park. I CANNOT fathom having to think about the fact that they might not make it out of a routine traffic stop alive.  With that in mind, how could I not consider how my biases and those of other white Americans play a role in how we teach, protect, and interact with people of color on a day-to-day basis?

Enter Nike.  Naming an out of work athlete as the current face of their Just Do It campaign was surprising to say the least.  It certainly feels like a big eff you to the very industry that pushed him out. Maybe it’s all just an amazing marketing effort – we’re talking, right?  While some may feel it’s bold and risky, I’d propose that Colin’s efforts to bring racial injustices to light will be remembered as a significant part of the civil rights movement, and Nike’s decision to support him will place them on the right side of history.

Ultimately, I’m thankful Nike is amplifying the conversation. My boys, who typically idolize the athletes who represent Nike, will now have someone to idolize based on his kindness, philanthropic efforts and enormous sacrifices to bring change to our society.

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Alison Wright

Alison is a 40-something mom of two. Social justice pursuer. Full-time college administrator, part-time vegetarian. Lover of kindness, reading, traveling and unforgiving workouts.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Great Post!!!! It’s so frustrating to hear all of the other narratives about why they’re protesting when they’re saying WHY they are doing it…but just like you said it’s all a distraction!!

    • Thank you Carissa! So much wasted energy and time is being spent on the false narratives. Thankful that a powerhouse like Nike is helping to project the true message forward.

  • Bravo Ms Alison for adding your voice to the narrative. I truly appreciate your perspective as a mom and a white woman who recognizes her privilege and benefits. Keep writing…we need allies on the struggle!

  • Great post! I just bought my kids their first pair of Nikes in response. They’re thrilled I finally gave in. I explained why I was finally willing to shell out for them. Because in a free market of a zillion athletic shoe brands, they stood up for something I believe. And I want to pass that belief to my kids. The way my dad, who put his life on the line for in the USMC, passed it on to me. The right of U.S. citizens to speak out against injustice perpetrated by their government. And because how we choose to spend our money should be a mindful act.

    • Heck yes, Gabrielle! Love that you were able to turn a shoe purchase into an important lesson for your kids. As well, thank you to your father for his service, and for believing in a more just America. We must hold this country we love accountable.

  • Alison, you’ve beautifully captured what has been annoying me about this protest. It’s been hijacked by a different agenda. Great post. Keep them coming!!

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