Time to declare our independence from tedious Colin Kaepernick debate

Alex Reimer
July 03, 2019 - 10:31 am

On this Fourth of July, it is time to declare our independence from the monotonous Colin Kaepernick debate. What started as a robust back-and-forth over the significance of our national anthem, and the symbolism of standing for it, has devolved into nothing more than tired partisan squabbling. 

When Nike’s decision to pull the Air Max 1 USA shoe was reported Tuesday, due to brand ambassador Kaepernick’s apparent objection to the Revolutionary-era U.S. flag stitched to the heel, everybody retreated to their familiar tribal corners. Pandering MAGA doofuses like Ted Cruz said Nike is only appealing to people who “hate the American flag,” and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey ordered state authorities to pull an incentive package offered towards Nike to build a factory in the Phoenix area, which would’ve brought 500 jobs to the region. Nothing like sabotaging your state’s economy to own the libs, who now find themselves championing a multibillion-dollar corporation that’s been accused of running sweatshops overseas for the last five decades. 

Kaepernick’s affiliation with Nike brings an intrinsic cynicism to his activist stances, especially in regards to the company’s own product. According to “sources familiar with the matter,” who first spoke to the Wall Street Journal, Kaepernick expressed his disagreement with the decision to market the 13-star flag, because of its prevalence in the late 18th century, when slavery was legal. In recent years, some white supremacist organizations have co-opted the Betsy Ross-designed flag, including the Klu Klux Klan. The group’s division in upstate New York put the image on fliers it distributed last year to potential new members.

There is a real discussion about the appropriateness of brandishing slave-era symbols, such as statues lionizing Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee. Unfortunately, Kaepernick doesn’t always contribute to that discussion himself. He declined comment on this story, as he has many times over the last few years on related topics. 

It is a bit strange that Nike, which employs a vast advertising and marketing wing, would place any symbol on its sneakers without delving into its meaning. The flap over the Betsy Ross shoe has turned the recalled sneaker into a collector’s item, selling for more than $2,000 online

Nike’s decision to partner with Kaepernick last year for the 30-year anniversary of its “Just Do It” campaign was a business calculation. The company’s annual sales have jumped seven percent to more than $39 billion, per its last quarter report, and Nike stock is up 12 percent since the start of the year. This is not corporate altruism, if such a thing exists. 

And therein lies the truly tedious part of Kaepernick’s latest chapter: we’re talking about a sneaker. This is not about standing up for the voiceless nor is it making a statement about the country’s racial climate. It is about removing a design from the back of a shoe, which can now be sold online for thousands of dollars.

Policing the shelves of Dick’s Sporting Goods is a far cry from where Kaepernick started. 

Related: Nike pulls Betsy Ross flag sneakers after Colin Kaepernick condemns design