Just when everybody thought the whole Colin Kaepernick national anthem controversy had finally, mercifully, exhaled its last breath, the folks at Nike resurrected it by making Kaepernick the centerpiece of its new marketing campaign.
The reaction all across the spectrum was immediate, from approval to disgust and everything in between. And rest assured, Nike smiled, having gotten more publicity out of its announcement than it ever would have garnered from just its ad campaign. It put the NFL in an uncomfortable spot, but the fallout reached nearly every level, including high school, with one of Oklahoma's most successful high school football programs, Jenks, dealing with its own aftermath.
Shortly after the Nike announcement, @JenksFootball tweeted out its reaction to Nike tapping Kaepernick as the new face of its brand.
"We'll just say we are thankful to have @UnderArmor as our partner and leave it at that," the account tweeted on Sept. 4. The reaction was fast and furious and sent Jenks backpedalling faster than a defensive back trying to cover Antonio Brown.
As reported by the Tulsa World, Jenkins Public Schools apologized the very next day, issuing the following statement:
“Jenks Public Schools sincerely apologizes for the recent tweet from @JenksFootball making an indirect reference to Nike. The tweet posted by the @JenksFootball Twitter account was completely inappropriate. The views expressed in the tweet are most certainly not in line with the views of Jenks Public Schools or the views of the Jenks Athletic Department. The @JenksFootball account is not affiliated with Jenks Public Schools or the Jenks Athletic Department.”
The original, offending tweet has since been deleted with @JenksFootball sending out a subsequent tweet: “Please accept a sincere apology for a recent tweet making indirect reference to Nike. The tweet is not in line w/the views of Jenks Public Schools or the Jenks Athletic Department. This platform should never be used to express political or religious views. We must be better.”
The district pointed out that no employees of Jenks Public Schools are affiliated with the @JenksFootball Twitter account. So, probably just chalk it up to an overzealous football booster.
The tweet had a message that certainly seemed almost innocuous enough to pass scrutiny, but in these preposterously polarized times — which Nike has gladly exploited — it was enough to send officials scrambling in damage-control mode.
But not all schools are timid about their stance on the controversy.
The College of the Ozarks, a private Christian college located in Missouri, dropped Nike completely in the wake of the Kaepernick campaign. The school, whose teams participate in the NAIA, left little doubt where it stands.
The school's president, Jerry C. Davis, said in a statement: “In their new ad campaign, we believe Nike executives are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America. If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them. We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform.”
Part of that statement was clearly a direct slam at Nike for its tagline "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." The words appear over Kaepernick's image in the Nike ads.
The liberal arts school announced it would be removing all uniforms purchased from Nike. The school has a total undergraduate enrollment of just over 1,500 students and fields varsity teams in six sports — baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, track and volleyball — so, it's not likely Nike will feel any financial pain, but the message was clear.
The college is no stranger to the issue of patriotism as last season it stated it would not participate in any game if a team kneeled, sat or turned its back during the anthem.
Meanwhile, we saw people burning their Nike shoes, which seems a bit foolish as burning already-purchased shoes isn't going to impact Nike sales. Nike stock dropped shortly after the announcement, but quickly rebounded so any potential boycott impact is at best dubious.
Clearly, Nike knew what it was doing as it gleefully kicked a hornet's nest and watched as it sent folks scurrying all over the place.
If you really want to be angry about something, be angry that you have been played by Nike. Really, we all have been.