Nike, No Thanks: Why the Black Community Should Reconsider its Love Affair with Nike
Earlier this fall, Many people went wild about Colin Kaepernick’s Ad Campion with Nike and I silently shook my head. Everywhere the former 49ers quarterback appeared in a simple black and white ad with the caption: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
In college, I majored in a psychology and I took a class I will never forget called The Psychology of Advertisement. All of my family and friends hate watching television with me because I psychoanalyze everything.
The class woke my mind up about a lot of ploys advertisers use to get viewers interested in their products. Don’t believe me watch this….
Have you noticed an influx of commercials with interracial couples? Let me tell you why. Companies are trying to prove they aren’t racist in this Trump Era of history.
Ever notice that in every Burger King and McDonalds’s commercial there is basketball, a rap beat, a sassy black lady, a single mother, and maybe even a gospel song? Fast food restaurants are mostly situated in impoverished black communities, so this is a ploy to draw in more black costumers by appealing to their ‘lifestyle’.
Ever watch a TV series and notice the main character is sipping a Coke and working on a MacBook Pro? That’s called product placement and companies pay for that moment so that consumers will go buy those products too.
Advertising is a game, it is subliminal, and I am a little too woke.
While everyone black celebrated Nike and some white people starting burning Nike apparel, I sat quietly and shook my head at the entire thing. Of course I wanted to write something about it, but a voice inside me quoted a famous meme that says, “Shhh, Let people enjoy things.”
I remained quite until a recent local incident, broke me.
Black Friday/Thanksgiving Shooting
By now you may know that I live in Alabama and here Black Friday is still a pretty big deal. At the Riverchase Galleria Mall in Birmingham/Hoover, there is a fancy hotel connected to the mall and many affluent individuals rent hotel rooms so they can sleep for a few hours after their Thanksgiving turkey then are first in line when the mall opens around 6 am. This has been going on my entire my life and this year is no different other than of a fatal shooting.
Late on Thanksgiving night, their was a fatal shooting at the mall. The mall was opened for expanded holiday hours and an African-American twenty-one-year-old man shot an eighteen-year-old male at the site. Police in turn killed the twenty-one-year-old. Few details are known about the incident other than a twelve-year old girl was hit in the crossfire and several people on social media stated that the incident started between the two young men at an athletic shoe store.
Hoover is a very nice area and in my life I can not remember a fatal shooting or a shooting at all at the Galleria. Bystanders took to social media to post pictures and video of the young man lying dead and bloody on the cold, hard pavement. Twenty-one, black, young, dead….gunned down in a white area, by a white police officer.
A thought came to the recesses of my mind and I looked up Jordan tennis shoe released dates and sure enough two pairs of Jordan’s were to be released early Friday morning 12am. Though there is no information about exactly what happened between the deceased and the young man he shot, I am almost certain that the Jordan’s shoe release had something to do with it.
Every year on Black Friday and Christmas Eve Jordan’s are released and a fight of some sort breaks out locally, though it is never usually deadly. (*new development in Thanksgiving shooting case below post)
Why I Despise Nike
My history with Nike is long and complicated. Growing up in the 1990’s when Michael Jordan was at his peak and Jordan tennis shoes were first released, there was a deep pressure to have those shoes in the black community.
I was ridiculed badly for not having Jordan’s and once in middle school, the kids created a rap about me and my “fake” Nike’s. I still remember those scornful words because they hurt so badly. The kids waited until our teacher exited the room to make copies and began drumming a beat with a pencil and rapping: “Look at that [explicit] with those fake on. Boy, I hate that stupid [explicit].” They laughed while my face grew ruddy, as I held back tears. My shoes were not fake Nike’s, they were just the Payless shoes that my family could afford, shoes that made me happy.
Over the years I was ridiculed for wearing Saucony, Payless brand, Adidas, and Shaq’s (LOL) all because I did not own Nike tennis shoes. Not only could we not afford Nike’s, I have never liked the shoes, my mom despises them, and as a super girly-girl, I really enjoyed wearing Mary Jane’s, canvas sneakers, flats, and by high school you couldn’t get me out of a pair of heels. Though I really desired a pair of Air Force 1’s after the release of the rapper Nelly song by the same title, I never got them.
I remember being irritated on the Mondays following Jordan’s release dates, because class would turn into a fashion show and I would feel truly sorry for the kids who wanted to keep up, but just could not finacially manage. I never felt badly for myself however, because I always knew that what was in my head was more important than that was on my feet.
Over time, I’ve heard stories of children stealing Nike shoes off people’s feet, people going into stores to steal the shoes at gunpoint, and even youngsters being killed for a pair of tennis shoes. If I am remembering correctly, I believe there was a local child who committed suicide in the 90’s, because he could not afford Nike’s.
Rap music and Hip-Hop continued to glamorize Nike tennis shoes, as children continued to die because of them. Birmingham Public School System even made children switch to uniforms to stop children who did not have the shoes from being bullied and beaten.
This problem is not exclusive to the 1990’s, Birmingham just lifted their uniform ordinance after more than twenty years and children are still being bullied because of their failure to keep up with each calendar release date.
Back to Psychology and Advertising
As I am sure you can tell by now, Nike as a brand has bought me nothing but grief. Even as an adult who can afford Nike, I workout in Champion’s and change back to my usual flats, heels, and scandals.
Again, as everyone celebrated Colin Kaepernick’s new campaign with Nike I was leery. I knew two things for certain; brands do not advertise without counting the costs and brands are also opportunist.
I figured Nike knew that black people are there primary buyers so they would not be financially affected by supporting Kaepernick and also Nike was riding the wavy of the new ‘pro-black’ movement. I was shocked to learn a deeper truth.
The Truth about Kaepernick and Nike’s Relationship
Just recently, I ran across a New York Times article that spilled all the tea on Colin Kaepernick’s complicated relationship with Nike (Click here to read the article). As a NFL quarterback, Kaepernick naturally had a relationship with Nike. Things between the pair were going great until Kaepernick boldly started protesting social injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem and walked away from his position as quarterback.
When Kaperinick became a free agent, but could not get picked up by another NFL team, Nike got nervous. What to do with such a bright and talented player who was endorsed by Nike because he was an athlete, but now he is no longer an athlete?
Nike was seriously considering letting Colin go, but finally decided to keep Kaperinick because the brand did not want to face the backlash from their top demographic, African-Americans. Nike also decided they would do nothing with Colin and silently let him go when his contract was up at the top of 2019. Kaperinick in turn decided to lawyer-up, as Nike was not holding up their contractual agreement to allow him to work and be visible in ad campaigns. Nike knew Kaperinick would not let down, as he is the type to hold on to his guns, and Colin was dually in the process of suing the NFL as well.
Inside sources who work with Nike, say that the company made a quick decision after much deliberation to rise Kaepernick up as a black savior figure to satisfy their black demographic and stay out of court. Nike scheme worked…black people cheered and Nike stock went though the roof.
Nike and Serena Williams
(Note: This portion did not come from the New York Times article, but from a personal guess) To make matters even worse, Nike started an ad campaign in support of Serena Williams. Nothing would be wrong with this gesture, outside of the fact that Nike had a diabolical scheme in this situation too.
French Open officials all but stated that Serena could not wear her famed black cat suit in the French Open. Everyone understood this to be blatant racism as her cat suit had radical Black Panther ties. Also, Serena has been very open about being a feminist and fighting for equal rights for women on and off the court. Nike was recently under fire for treating their female employees badly at the beginning of the year- do you see where I am going?
In other words, Nike decided to support a black female athlete openly, as to pretend the company is down with the black and feminist cause- just in time for the US Open where the ad would enjoy high visibility. The ad lamely stated, “You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.”
Nike erected a male and female black savior simultaneously so that black and feminist consumers would know that the brand’s ‘love’ for equality was real and not get suspicious of the fact that Colin Kaperinick had not been made visable by the company in almost two years.
Nike and the Bait Truck
Nike’s schemes do not end here. This August, in several places inside Chicago’s inner city, police set up what people in the area called a bait truck. An unlocked eighteen wheeler was parked in at least two locations in high-crime black communities loaded with Nike Air Force 1 sneakers and Christian Louboutin shoes. The truck was setup as bait for black young people to open and steal the shoes so they could be arrested by police who were surveying the area.
When area Chicago residences figured out what was happening, they started to film the incident and complain to city officials. Police apologized and vowed to never try and purposely frame residents again, but for me there are lots of questions left unanswered.
As a brand Nike, is very careful with how they advertise and are perceived. Personally, If I was a CEO at Nike, I would have issued a statement admitting to having nothing to do with the offensive sting operation. I might have even attempted to sue the city of Chicago for lowering the standard of the brand. However, I understand this situation could not be brought to litigation unless my company had absolutely no involvement.
How could the nearly bankrupt city of Chicago afford an eighteen wheeler filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in designer shoes? The answer is Chicago can not afford it, but Nike sure can. I smell a sponsorship.
Nike property is often stolen during the loading process and sold for cheaper prices -underground or bootleg. Often, youngster in the black community who feel pressured to wear the shoes but can not afford them, will buy the stolen merchandise from a street dealer.
Instead of Nike acknowledging the communities love for the shoes and giving a couple of pairs away, they sponsored a sting operation in order for more black people to be carted off to jail.
Even if Nike had no involvement in the bait truck, it is highly offensive that the brand did not at least attempt to release a statement admonishing the poor conduct of officers who tried to frame the brand’s top demographic. This neglagence shows how little Nike cares for impoverished African Americans.
Nike and Historic Symbolism
I am vexed with the community’s love for Nike, because Nike has no love for the community. Not only that, the Nike brand reminds me of the historical concepts of trinkets.
When white people came over to Africa to capture black slaves, many of the black slaves were sold by black slave owners for trinkets – beads, coins, hard alcohol, jewels- odd things from the colonies that Africans had never seen before and were impressed with. Black people willingly gave each other away to genocide, oppression, and death for novel items.
White slave owners remembered Africans love for trinkets and continued the tradition in America. Many slaves were bribed by trinkets and told the location of fellow runaways, secret marriages and affairs, and even revealed the slaves who were learning to read and write all in exchange for little novel items.
I feel that brands like Nike still capitalize from black people’s love of trinkets and have created a shoe that has totally destroyed many Africa-Americans. Many will kill for it, steal for it, die for it, go to jail for it, and be totally enslaved by the brand.
Nike keeps the novelty going by releasing a ‘new’ shoe every few months and African-Americans fall into the whole Willie Lynch concept of being divided.
The Willie Lynch Letter encouraged white slave owners to keep slaves divided by pitting the old against the young, the weak against the strong, the male against the female, the light against the dark.
Basically, whites were encouraged to find any slight differences between blacks and persuade them to hate each other becsuse of it so that they could never unify as a race. Now there is a division between those who can afford Nike and those who can not.
It is a cycle that has lasted for over thirty years and as African-Americans continue to scramble to afford Nike, Nike contuines to sit back and collect millions of dollars.
I’ll close with this simple question: Is Nike truly in support of American Americans or are black people an invaluable resource that the company uses for personal gain? Ask yourself this question as you decided how to spend your hard-earned cash this holiday season.
*** Shocking Update: New information has developed in the Thanksgiving mall shooting incident. The young man who was shot by the police was not the person who fired the shots at the 18-year-old male. Yes, there was an altercation by the Footaction shoe store at the Riverchase Galleria between two other young men, but the 21-year-old deceased victim did not fire the shots that wounded the 18-year-old and it seems as though the police actually fired the shots that hit the young girl.
The 21-year-old young man was Emantic Bradford Jr. A former member of the military who was actually trying to save bystanders from police fire. He pushed several people to safety before he was shot in the head by a white police officer.
After the incident, Bradford’s family had to learn of his tragic death from social media. The police did not inform the family and took several days to even apologize for firing the fatal shots at Emantic.
Now a 12-year-old was hospitalized as well as the 18-year-old, another suspect is at large, and a beautiful black boy will return to the soil right before the Christmas hoilday. Killed for no reason… by white police likely over someone else’s unfactualtion with Nike’s and racial profiling.
Please stay in continued prayer for each victim and their families during this trying time. More details developing.