Rindge Students React to the Kaepernick-Nike Ad

Leo Barron, Contributing Writer

Two years ago, on the first day of the NFL preseason, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the national anthem. When asked why he kneeled, Colin responded, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Instantly, Kaepernick became the most polarizing figure in sports due to his protests. During the regular season, Kaepernick continued to kneel. Then, in 2017, when his contract ended, Kaepernick was unable to find a job on any NFL team, despite being an accomplished quarterback.

Recently, the controversy around Kaepernick has taken a new turn which has stirred up discussion around the school and around the country. Nike, the leading athletic wear company in the world with a logo that is almost impossible to miss at the school, made Kaepernick the focus of their newest ad campaign. The motto of the campaign is “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything”, which has provoked reaction from those at CRLS.

Nick OC ’21, a starting football player on the CRLS varsity team, supports Kaepernick’s protests. “[Kaepernick] has used his platform, and helped represent many other Americans that don’t have the platform to make their opinions heard,” he says. OC also brought up how the conversation around the flag and who it represents has always been what Kaepernick wanted, and his protests have helped to push those conversations forward.

Beseleel Bayessa ’21 thinks that Kaepernick is the perfect person to represent Nike. “Kaepernick is a good example of someone who fought hard for what he believed in, and did not change his beliefs even with backlash. I mean, who else would Nike pick? Kaepernick is the perfect guy to lead this ad campaign.” For Bayessa and many others, the Nike ad brings a new life to Kaepernick’s protests. Kaepernick has been out of the league for two years, and talk of his protests had started to slowly wither. But after the Nike ad came out, things exploded, and supporters as well as dissenters of the protest began speaking out about not only the anthem protests, but also police brutality in America in general.

Others at the school who are familiar with the controversy think that those who are boycotting and burning Nike apparel across the country are in the wrong. “I think it was disgraceful that people decided to burn their Nike clothing and shoes,” says Charlie Reed ’20. He continued, noting, “They supported Serena Williams after the U.S. Open, and even if people disagree with Kaepernick, it doesn’t make it right to burn Nike apparel just because you have different views than another company.” Reed added that Nike should be given more credit for standing up for Kaepernick, especially considering the backlash the company could face.

“Kaepernick used his platform to express his grievances with the state of our country, and as much as people would like to deny [them], the grievances are more real today than ever,” says, Marly Ciccolo, a senior on the girls varsity soccer team. The team has followed Kaepernick’s protests by kneeling during the national anthem at their games. She continued, “Those who have participated in the anthem protests have upset many, but have also conveyed a strong message that things are extremely far from being equal, fair, and just.”

Around the world, Kaepernick’s protests have been shamed, battered, and dismissed as disrespectful, but at CRLS, many students have a different perspective on Kaepernick’s protests. They see it as a chance to bring police brutality to the forefront of American politics, and to show people across America that racism and police brutality are two of the biggest issues in this country, and should be treated as such.

This piece also appears in our September 2018 print edition.