Corporations have no place in public politics

Molly Szymanski, Opinion Editor

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In light of the national controversy over a sixty second video, fingers are being pointed left and right at who is in the right versus the wrong. People are roasting marshmallows over their charred Nikes because they’re ‘real Americans,’ in a desperate scramble to “believe in something, even if it’s crazy” (Nike).
To those who are blissfully ignorant in this situation: first of all, I envy you. Second of all, I feel obligated to ruin the distanced confusion and break the ten-foot pole you’ve been poking this issue with in half.
All the way back in 2016, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to omit himself from standing for the National Anthem at multiple games in protest of “a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said in a post-game interview. This connotes his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and he has since then received backlash for ‘disrespecting his country.’ Now that we’re all minimally informed, I digress.
Kaepernick is allowed to use his platform to stand up (or kneel) for what he believes in, no matter how controversial. You cannot preach freedom of speech for yourself if you don’t want the other side doing it, too. I agree that it was disrespectful, but that’s the whole point. It did what it was supposed to do: highlight the imperfections in our system, even if it was polarizing. Protests are designed to make society uncomfortable, so that they will address change.
While the issues pressed by the protest are valid, the problem lies in Nike’s position in the controversy. Companies love to feign societal awareness these days, as that’s what catches attention of the consumers— regardless of whether said attention in a positive light or not, because ‘any press is good press’ isn’t a cliché without reason; the very fact that this is being written about right now is proof of the marketing tactic’s success. It is the job of the advertising department to hop on bandwagons and capture as much attention for the product as possible, and clearly, it’s working.
We see more and more controversy in our ads every day, and I really just don’t know why. As someone who never stops expressing their opinion, when I say enough is enough, you know it’s bad. Just as last year’s Pepsi ad, where Kendall Jenner didn’t ‘destroy police brutality’ by handing a cop a soda, Nike is not ‘destroying racism’ vicariously through Kaepernick by having him narrate an ad.
The company you’re either supporting or boycotting currently isn’t actually ‘woke,’ or else it would do something about their Vietnamese factory workers making between 61 and 81 cents an hour with forced overtime. Perhaps if Nike really wanted to empower people, they’d be a bit more humanitarian in the people who make their products. But instead they make those sneakers people have been burning affordable to their employees at the low low cost of approximately 127 hours of labor.
If you really didn’t want to trudge through my propagandist ramblings, I don’t blame you. But the question I’m asking, and what we all should be asking, is who cares what Nike has to say? The only real reason they’re commenting on this movement is to capitalize on it, but by all means, tape over the logo on your shoes, because that’ll make it all better.

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