Since 2016, NFL players have been “taking a knee” during the national anthem before football games as a silent protest against systemic oppression. Colin Kaepernick – a former player for the San Francisco 49ers – was the first football player to take a knee during a game.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Kaepernick told NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

After that preseason game in 2016, Kaepernick’s life was never the same. He came under fire for kneeling and the football universe was split in two. NFL players and non-professional football athletes alike began to protest alongside Kaepernick, kneeling in solidarity with him and his fight against systemic oppression. Taking a knee became a statement for the Black Lives Matter movement and their fight to end oppression and brutality against black lives. Others, on the opposite side, began boycotting the NFL and requesting that those who knelt be benched or fired. They saw kneeling as a sign of disrespect against the American flag and ignored what the original protest was actually fighting for. After the 2016 season ended, Colin Kaepernick became a man without a team and his name was swept away by other news.

Kaepernick’s legacy, however, did not end there.

Sept. 3, Nike unveiled Colin Kaepernick to be the face of its 30th anniversary campaign commemorating  the “Just Do It” tagline. The campaign features a black-and-white photo of Kaepernick, the Nike logo and the statement: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Like Kaepernick’s previous statement, this, too, has created controversy.

This time, however, Nike is taking the brunt of it.

Since Kaepernick became the face of Nike, people have boycotted Nike, burning their apparel and posting videos of angry rants against the company. A preacher in Alabama even decided to publicly protest by cutting up a Nike wristband during a Sunday sermon. Though there is quite a lot of backlash, Nike’s sales have still risen by over six billion dollars since their Kaepernick campagin unveil. Ever since Kaepernick became a free agent, however, he has not been able to get a new contract with the NFL.

If Nike wants to use Kaepernick as the face of their campaign, they have to cut ties with the NFL completely. They cannot simply be neutral. When they decided to use Kaepernick and state that people need to fight for what they believe in, even if means losing everything, they decided to side with him and his message. If they stay neutral it will only show that they used Kaepernick as a business scheme.

“Nike isn’t walking the walk by supporting two opposing sides of an issue at the same time.” – Adriana Sanchez ’22

Thousands of people stand behind Colin Kaepernick and his fight against systemic oppression. If Nike is using that message to make more money, they are no better than the NFL. Nike isn’t walking the walk by supporting two opposing sides of an issue at the same time. They need to practice what they preach when they decide to work with someone like Colin Kaepernick who has such a strong message.

Kaepernick’s fight is against systemic oppression. However, Nike still benefits from oppression in producing their clothes through sweatshops. This might not have anything to do with Kaepernick, but it is important to the broad issue of systemic oppression. There is still a lot to be done in order to end the system of oppression in the United States and around the world. Nike is unable to support the protest against systemic oppression while at the same time supporting systemic oppression.


Adriana Sanchez ’22 (sanche19@stolaf.edu) is from Santa Fe, N.M. Her major is undecided.