Athlete Activist: Athletes Should “Just Do It” and Stand for Their Beliefs

Athlete Activist

Has Nike made it acceptable for athletes to be activists?  It appears so given, the deal that Nike made with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  Colin Kaepernick became an athlete activist when he courageously used his platform to protest police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem prior to games.  As a result, many believe Kaepernick was “blackballed” from the NFL for his actions. Since then he has become a polarizing political figure.  Kaepernick subsequently sued the NFL for colluding to keep him out of the league.

In spite of this, Nike, who is the NFL’s official apparel provider,  took a bold stand by making Kaepernick the face of their 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” campaign.  Nike’s announcement shocked the world and was met with much criticism.  It was the first time Kaepernick received mainstream corporate support for sacrificing his career to stand up for what he believed in.

The deal was unusual as historically athlete activists do not receive endorsements or any mainstream support. They are usually kicked out of their league and in many cases forgotten about.  This trend has left many athletes reluctant to speak on social justice issues.  Nike’s endorsement has the power to completely revolutionize the way athlete activist are viewed and the way they view the consequences of speaking out.

Athlete Activist Whose Careers Suffered for Activism

Kaepernick was not the first athlete activist to lose his career for taking a stand on social justice issues. Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing license for refusing the draft during the Vietnam War.  As a result, Ali missed out on valuable years of his prime.  In 1992 in the midst of the Rodney King case, NBA star Craig Hodges was ousted from the NBA for speaking out against racism in the NBA and America.  Similar to Kaepernick, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was ousted from the NBA for refusing to stand for the national anthem because it conflicted with his Muslim faith.  Former NFL defensive end Eric Reid has been ousted from the league arguably for kneeling alongside Kaepernick.

Due to the aforementioned and other similar stories, athlete activism was unfairly characterized as career suicide. Athlete Activism was unfairly considered bad for business, not only for the league but also for the athlete’s brand. As a result, athletes have been reluctant to speak out.  In light of this view, Kaepernick being ousted from the NFL came as no surprise.    Everyone thought Kaepernick had ruined his NFL career.  No one expected him ever to be able to land any kind of sports-related endorsement ever again.   This is why Nike’s endorsement of Kaepernick is so revolutionary. A major athletic apparel company has never endorsed a controversial athlete activist.  The endorsement has the power to completely change the view of athlete activism.

Is This a New Day for Athlete Activist?

Should other athletes be inspired by Nike’s endorsement and be unafraid to speak out?  Other athletes should be inspired by the endorsement.  Nike endorsed Kaepernick because they saw the value in his message. They saw the power in his resolve to stand for his beliefs at all cost.  This resonated with Nike and the message behind their slogan “Just Do It.”  “Just Do It” inspires people to do what they need to do to succeed at all cost.   That is just what Kaepernick did.  Nike would likely support other athletes who use their platforms to stand for their beliefs, no matter the consequences.

Nike also realized the economic incentive in endorsing Kaepernick.  They saw the overwhelming amount of people who supported Kaepernick and realized that he could be good for business.  Nike realized that the fan base the NFL ostracized was the fan base that it should cater to.  Other brands may see Nike’s success with Kaepernick and begin to endorse athlete activist as well.  It is a new day for athlete activist.  Athletes should be inspired by Nike’s endorsement of Kaepernick and stand up for their own beliefs.

The Truth and Lies About Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick NFL Truth Lies
By now you’ve probably heard a few lies about why Colin Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster… Good thing you have me to set the record straight!

Lie #1: Kaepernick sucks and can’t play anymore

Whoever says that is either towing the company line or doesn’t look at stats. Either way, they will admit that Kaepernick has not helped his case by not speaking publicly and letting the powers that be control the narrative but facts are facts… Kaepernick is being blackballed. He is not being signed due to cowardice, irrational fear, and hypocrisy. Good thing we have easy access to stats to help figure out which of us is right.
Take a look at his stats… Kaepernick is only 29 years old and ranks 11th in career QB rating among active quarterbacks. He’s ahead of Carson Palmer, Derek Carr, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, and a bunch of other names you know. He has been to more Super Bowls, NFC championship games than four of the guys I just named.  Coming off injury in 2016, Kaepernick started just 11 games. He threw 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions while playing for the 49ers. San Francisco was the team with the least talent in the NFL last season. Kaepernick finished the season with a higher passer rating in 2016 than 13 other starters. If you add in the immense personal and professional pressure he was under, his future looks bright.
Owners, general managers, and coaches regularly tell us they want competition and the best 53 guys on their team. Clearly that’s not true. The numbers speak for themselves. Kaepernick is clearly NFL starter quality, which means he’s absolutely qualified to be a backup. TWENTY-THREE backup quarterbacks have been signed this offseason. NONE of which have the success Kaepernick has. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Case Keenum, Matt Schaub, Dan Orlovsky, Blaine Gabbert, Kellen Moore, Matt McGloin… Damn, my fingers are getting tired. Some of these guys have proven to us numerous times they have a hard time throwing more TDs than interceptions, even on good teams. These are the things they usually don’t talk about on TV and radio. General managers have anonymously said he is good enough to be a starter. So why isn’t Kaepernick signed? The same reason they need to be anonymous. FEAR.

Lie #2: Kap is bad guy

Did Colin Kaepernick get a DUI, commit domestic abuse, beat his kid, or violate the league drug policy and I missed it? Nope. Franchises regularly sign domestic abusers, and guys with DUI’s despite the public backlash. What makes Kaepernick so different? His protest made people uncomfortable because it brought up an issue that makes non-brown people uncomfortable: social injustice. The copout is Kaepernick’s protest “disrespected our flag and our military”. I really hope you don’t believe that BS. The United States was founded on protest. The protests against the British government were violent and ultimately caused the American Revolutionary War. Less than 100 years later, the Civil War started over protest of slavery and state’s rights. Our service men and women have fought, sacrificed, and died so we could protest. Kaepernick PEACEFULLY protested yet  – for some reason – is considered un-American. This is hypocritical, cowardly, and rooted in irrational fear.

Lie #3: Our military is offended

Both of my grand fathers served in the military. I have also traveled around the world visiting our servicemen and women. I have a great appreciation for our military. I’ve spoken with numerous servicemen and women who said ‘it doesn’t feel good to see someone kneeling at the National Anthem, but we fight to protect these freedoms for everyone’. If many people in the military can accept Kaepernick standing up for what he feels is right, why can’t you?
It makes me angry when people say Kaepernick “disrespected our flag and our military” because of their hypocrisy. Many of our servicemen and women are homeless, unemployed, and struggling when they retire from active duty. Those same people that condemn Kaepernick for “offending” the military don’t lift a finger to help them. They walk by them daily like trash on the street, but you are worried about Kaepernick’s alleged disrespect. Do something. Call your congressman, volunteer, or raise money before you come at anybody else on your soapbox.

Lie #4: Sports are not for protests

Muhammad Ali and other athletes protested the Vietnam War. In 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos protested on the medal stand with a raised fist. In 1980, the U.S. boycotted the Olympics in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Billy Jean King and Venus Williams fought for women to get equal pay at Wimbledon… and won. The NBA, MLB, and NFL have all gone on strike. The list goes on and on of successful times, sports has been used for protest.

Lie #5: Kaepernick needs to clean up his image

Maybe if Kaepernick cut his hair he would be signed? What’s wrong with the image of a guy who has never been in trouble, donates millions, does community service, and stands up for the rights of others? His hair?? We appreciate Trump, Hannity, Tapper, and Maddow for standing up for causes they believe in and not wavering through adversity. Why is it such a problem when a black athlete does it, why does he need to be silenced? Shouldn’t we appreciate a person whose opinions can’t be bought, and will stand in the fire and take the bullets for others.
 Ryan Fitzpatrick, Aaron Rodgers, or Andrew Luck hair situation is more palatable for you.
We have to be willing to have these uncomfortable conversations about race and injustice in this country. We know that most police officers are good people trying to do the right thing. We also have to admit that some officers are criminals and they have unjustly murdered American citizens. Those officers/criminals are to blame for dividing our country, not those who stand up and shine a light on the issue.
There’s only ONE reason why Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster: NFL owners are SCARED for ALL of the wrong reasons. I really hope some owner has the balls and courage to do what’s in the best interest of his football team winning games and sign Kaepernick. The owners are terrified that you the fans may get mad about this issue. How about doing something for a change and show them you are pissed Kaepernick hasn’t been signed? Fortune favors the bold.
“The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.” 

 Phil Knight, Shoe Dog