Kitanya Responds to Comments — 17

Kitanya Harrison
5 min readSep 8, 2018

I only posted once this week — my article, The Conflicts of Colin Kaepernick’s Nike Victory. I’m working on a piece that takes much more research and collaboration than I’m used to doing, so that’s why I haven’t been posting. It’s been challenging, but hopefully after fine-tuning things over the weekend, I’ll be able to post sometime next week.

I’m surprised by how much attention my Kaepernick/Nike piece got without the boost of a feature from Medium.

Jonathan Greene commented:

Kaep is just finding a larger mouthpiece because he has to. They tried to silence him for years, delete him and shun him and now, with a partnership with Nike, he has a bigger platform and less chance of being ignored in favor of a new POTUS psychotic Tweetstorm.

I don’t think it’s deniable that Nike weighing in has been monumental (whether you think it’s negative or positive — it’s both, I think). The whole tone around the situation has changed, because they’re too big to be intimidated or pushed around. What’s the NFL going to do to Nike now that they have the on-field apparel deal with league locked in for a decade? Who is going to compete with their ad budget? It’s going to be much harder to dirty Kaepernick up now that Nike has explicitly said they want him kept clean. And now that it’s clear Kaepernick’s already made them money? The entire conversation is going to change.

There is a deeper critique of how powerful multi-national corporations are lurking in here that I might tease out in a future essay. Nike knew Trump would come for them, and they’re unbothered. That tells us all something about where the real power is.

The hilarity of people cutting the swoosh off their already purchased gear is a photograph of Trump’s America.

The whole thing was so incredibly bizarre. Burning up perfectly good shoes that they paid for! Imagine not only being that silly but taking yourself so seriously while you’re being so daft…

Rosalyn Morris wrote:

I love how you intertwined Nike’s decision and capitalism. I think Nike made a decision knowing that it would be profitable in the end, but I would also like to think they did it because they knew it was right. I could be naive.

I think signing Kaepernick was the right strategic decision for Nike. Doing the right thing by being more inclusive is good for business right now. Doing the right thing by closing the sweatshops isn’t. Putting out inspirational ads featuring diverse casts is much easier and cheaper than transitioning their entire manufacturing network over to fairer work conditions.

Like anywhere else, there are good and bad people that work at Nike. I think what their deal with Kaepernick is showing is that some of the good people are in the rooms where big decisions are being made. I suspect the discussions were very different than those that took place inside NFL front offices. There was a willingness to weigh the benefits against the blowback that I don’t think happened in the NFL. Nike putting out athletic hijabs also tells you something different is happening in their boardrooms. It’s a truly international business. Muslims spend money too. And young Black people drive popular culture.

Part of what is being revealed is how provincial and backward the NFL is. Anyone who’d thought about it could see that Kaepernick was a conduit to a giant pile of money. Just his international name recognition alone is hugely valuable. NFL teams should have been in a knife fight to sign him and pick up the shine Nike got off of this. Now, no matter who takes him (and someone eventually will), it will look like their hand was forced. It was a huge wasted opportunity. White supremacy is a helluva drug, man…

Lisa Makes Things wrote:

The athletes utilized in the campaign are the heroes not Nike. Nike is still a brand and Wieden Kennedy are geniuses at what they do.

Wieden Kennedy is arguably the best ad agency in the world, and they’re doing what you’d expect them to do with something as big as the 30th anniversary of “Just Do It.” The spot Kaepernick narrates is classic Nike. But the ad is too classically Nike, in my opinion. It’s too soon to tell how Nike will continue to use Kaepernick in its content, but I’m afraid Kaepernick (and his message) might disappear under all the inspiration porn. Those Nike commercials are meant to make people feel good. Pointing to the brutality Kaepernick was protesting against does the opposite. Balancing that is going to be tricky business.

It would make me incredibly sad to see Kaepernick’s message co-opted. Even so, I understand 100% why he made the deal, and I think it’s what’s best for him. Nike backing him may be the only way he’ll stand a chance of getting his livelihood back soon. And anyone who wants to call him a sellout for getting a paycheck that will help him foot the bill for all the security measures he’s had to take to keep him and the people he loves safe can miss me until the heat death of the universe.

I’ve said a few times before that I don’t want this feature to be me just agreeing with people, but this is what the pushback looks like:

Anyone thinks the workplace is a place to make public political statements and piss off half your company’s customers has sacrificed only one thing, their brains.

That’s not a springboard for an intelligent conversation. Imagine writing that after everything that’s happened over the past two years… This is why Nike getting involved is so important — it kills the “Kaepernick is bad for business arguments” stone dead. It’s also important that an entity as powerful as Nike has said, “Keep your money; we’re good without it.” It’s the most forcefully these people have been told to go and season some food since this whole business started.

That’s it for this week! I’m really excited about sharing what I’ve been working so hard on, and I hope you all enjoy it!



Kitanya Harrison

*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: | Rep: Deirdre Mullane