Nike was in trouble.
In May of 2018 the Global Exchange released a report saying that the apparel manufacturer had fallen far short of their commitments to improving conditions in the factories they employed to make the shoes that made them so rich.
“During the last three years, Nike has continued to treat the sweatshop issue as a public-relations inconvenience rather than as a serious human rights matter,” said Leila Salazar, corporate accountability director for the San Francisco-based labor-rights organization.
This was a pattern from the very beginning. Nike has historically made their apparel in the cheapest conditions possible, usually in countries where unionism is against the law. On the horizon, they could see an even more disturbing pattern; a generation of shoe buyers who allegedly are more caring towards social issues.
Enter Colin Kapernick.
A man gifted with a cannon arm and a brilliant athlete, Kapernick fell victim of the bane of many a gifted football athlete; an equally-gifted defensive coordinator with film and endless time. Defensive coordinators are men paid in the millions in the NFL to find the Achilles Heel in every person.
Example? Rick Mirer was a quarterback from Notre Dame, drafted in 1992, who was Rookie of the Year. A cannon arm, a gifted athlete (see a pattern?), and true quarterback savvy, Seattle thought they had their man. Until halfway through his second season, the DC film room went Sproing!, and they had their answer; Mirer can’t throw effectively to his left.
From that moment, Mirer was done as a star. He had a respectable career, 11 years as a backup, but not the kind you would expect from the second pick of the entire draft.
After taking the 49ers to one play away from winning the Superbowl and one play from the NFC championship the next year, the DC film room finally went Sproing! For Kapernick.
The verdict? He targets his first receiver and locks in on him, he has difficulty finding the second receiver, and takes off too fast and ignores the help his linemen could give him if he followed his blockers. After this, Kapernick’s career as a starter was over.
He had offers both from Denver and the 49ers, but he refused both offers when it was clear that he would take a pay cut and have to fight for a job. Kapernick, faced with the uphill climb every player who dreams of playing in the NFL has to make, decided it was too much of a bother and quit.
In the ensuing months, he looked for the easy route, teams with injured quarterbacks that he could slide in like a savior. However NFL teams decided that a guy who doesn’t have the guts to work for a job doesn’t have the guts to work on his flaws. The kneeling for the anthem issue, quite simply, has no place in understanding why he didn’t have a job.
With a need to score points with a generation that only cares about looking good instead of doing good, they designated Kap as their poster child. It was a perfect fit; two icons virtue-signaling their sincerity and doing a good job of faking it. Don Draper shakes his head in pride.
Now they’re both invulnerable from criticism by pandering to popular causes, without having to lift a finger in actual work. Millennials are gleefully counting Nike profits, like any coupon-clipping retiree enjoying the news that their favorite money maker has announced record profits by cutting their workforce by a third.
Affirming that there is no honor among thieves, Kapernick slid a knife in Nike’s back by announcing his own shirts. Always the advertising genius, Kapernick announced that 20% of the profits will go towards his favorite charity, which he of course runs. However, something must not have been perfect, because after a day he announced 100% of the profits would go to it, so I’m guessing he’s still thinking about which box to put the money in.
At this point, I think we need to join Kapernick and laugh. There may be no issue that exposes the willing naiveté of the younger generation than this one.
Gleefully they mount on threads across the country and talk about daily sales like any mid-level manager. They abandon the ramparts of their virtue warrior castles to open the gates to Nike profits.
Somewhere there are half a million workers who have their shift foremen screaming “Back To Work!” while the wealth of Nike grows with every shoe. And the sincerity of virtue-signalers is exposed to the fact that their talk is all about talk.
There may be no single issue that separates the generations like this one. The lines are drawn, and the ethical high-ground belongs to the older generation because of the so-obvious differences between the younger generation’s alleged beliefs and their actions.
They demand social justice, yet give Nike the cover for practices just 3 months ago they deplored.
They align themselves with person of wealth and privilege, who never had real struggles in his life, not because of anything he has done, but what he represents. In cattle terms, it’s all sizzle and no steak.
P.T. Barnum is a man unknown to this generation, but his wisdom is still with us. A self-promoter, he had only a single issue with hucksterism; that the public should enjoy it. His display of the Fuji Mermaid was a sensation across the United States during the 1840s, portraying it as an authentic corpse.
In all of his hoaxes, it should be noted that he never presented them as fakes, but real. However, as long as the people enjoyed them, what’s the problem?
We’re seeing Barnum’s philosophy played out as Nike and Kapernick virtue-wash their sins in a bath of capitalistic greed. Kapernick has identified himself as a genuine victim of his Star-Spangled Banner stance while in truth he lacked the skills to continue to play and the courage to attempt to get better.
Nike preferred to signal their virtuousness by employing Kapernick, instead of the much harder and more expensive job of improving the lives of the half a million workers who slave over their goods at the betterment of the Nike owners.
And those of us who watch the millennials shake our heads in disbelief. Perhaps we’re using the wrong emotion. Let’s join Kapernick in laughing with the millennials at the situation. But given the situation, maybe Kapernick is not laughing with them, but at them.