America has been a sole focus of major news and politics during the past 2 years since Donald Trump entered office. He vowed to “make America great again”, but instead divided the country to breaking point with creating a huge tide of tension within the U.S. A major focus has been the recent reports of Police brutality on innocent African-American men & women; which evidently propelled the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign.
Along with marches in the major cities, the NBA (National Basketball Association) & the NFL (National Football League) have both showcased their support for the movement. NBA players would wear political shirts before the games and discuss their stances in interviews in which the commissioner, Adam Silver, praises as he encourages free speech in the league. However, the NFL has an alternative perspective on showing support for the movement. One that has brought huge controversy into the sport. Players would exercise their right to protest by kneeling during the national anthem to shine a light on those who have lost their lives to police brutality. The players choose not to support a nation where innocents die and the policemen who killed them are just given a warning. The player to start the kneeling protests was ex-San Francisco 49rs Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick was a huge play-maker in the NFL, regarded as one the best players in the league. However, once Kaepernick began to protest; he was restricted to the bench and looked down upon by owners of every team in the NFL. Kaepernick opted out of his contract in his final year, heading to free agency. But Kaepernick was unable to join a team during the 2017 NFL Offseason. Little did Kaepernick know, he was about to bring real change to league and to social media alike.
After Kaepernick’s departure from the NFL, players across the league began to kneel and raise their fist in support for the treatment of minorities in America. The league determined the crack down on this, thus a vote by all the owners saw that kneeling during the national anthem would be forbidden and any player who chooses to knell would be charged a certain fee. Although this was the NFL’s way to coincide with Donald Trump’s America, who unsurprisingly also expressed his hatred for players kneeling, this did not stop the players unifying every Thursday, Sunday and Monday to show their support. Even though Kaepernick started this trend, he was unseen for a while in the NFL’s eyes until the start of September 2018.
“Athletes have a platform to inspire and could be the voice of change on a mass scale”
Nike decided to use Kaepernick as their spokesperson to highlight 30 years of the ‘Just Do It’ campaign and as it can be imagined, this caused huge controversy across America with many consumers taking their views to twitter to express their anger; by using an unpatriotic sportsman to showcase the biggest sports brand in America. Some videos showed middle aged, white conservative men burning their Nike shoes in protest to express their hatred for the new campaign. This is based around how Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand during the National Anthem, becoming unpopular with conservative patriotic voters. This demographic believed Nike made a terrible decision and hoped they would remove Kaepernick from Nike’s billboards.
On the other hand, this completely backfired against the Trump voters’ tactics as Nike stocks began to rise instead of fall, and they received a huge amount of recognition for the risk they took. Now enough with the story telling. America is supposedly the land of the free but restricts those who show an inch of freedom if they fit into a certain minority. This is a huge problem with the U.S. today; they fail to tackle to deep rooted issues within the U.S. system. The system fails minorities as their chances of success are not as high as white men in America. The Obama administration showed change, as if the tide of was about to be flipped to be in favor of those who had suffered for a long period of time. But once this ended and the Trump empire took over, America was destined to decline. Sports appeared as the only way minorities could speak out on matters, as protests on the streets were met with violence and crushed by the police. Athletes needed to speak up in the best way they could. They have a platform to inspire and could be the voice of change on a mass scale.
“Athletes are the most influential in the nation and have the potential to possess great power in a high-ranking position”
Before the Trump administration, teams who won major championships in the U.S were invited to the White House to reward the hard work Athletes had achieved to win a major trophy. Yet in the past few years, teams have declined offers to join Trump in the White House until further notice, in an act of protest against the system and to hopefully show Trump he is not fit for presidency. This is why this Nike campaign is so important. It truly gives those from a misunderstood and poverty-stricken background that they can make a change in whatever they do, and that they have the right to ‘Just Do It’ if they believe it to be correct. America’s modern age should be in peace and harmony with all races coinciding with one another through the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. As a Brit who is a huge fan of American sports and witness’s the crippling system America has in place; Sport is the starting point in which a difference can be made. The Athletes are the most influential in the nation and have the potential to possess great power in a high-ranking position. Lebron James, a Los Angeles Lakers Basketball Player, opened a state-of-the-art school for those who are less privileged and who don’t gain the same chances as the white middle class. Sportsman have the power to help those who need it.
Kaepernick is a sign of change in this era, inspiring millions to stand up against the man in power to bring justice and peace across the supposed ‘Land of the Free’ & ‘Home of the Brave’. Looking in, it will be a long while until there is some real change made and definitely not until Trump leaves office, but it is certainly a start.