Just Sell Out

You Have Girlfriend Vietnam?

Colin Kaepernick has just betrayed everything he ostensibly stood (or knelt) for by signing on to be the face of Nike’s recurring “Just Do It” campaign. In doing so, he becomes an ambassador for child labor and worker exploitation throughout the world.

Nike, which manufactures its athletic-wear through third-party contractors in Asia has come under fire many times over the years, for lax oversight, and tacit encouragement of their business partners’ exploitative practices.

In  1997, scandalous working conditions were revealed in Nike’s third-party manufacturing plants in Vietnam, when their government brought legal action against the contractors and Nike after dozens of employees reported mistreatment, wage tampering and even sexual molestation.

Jill Ker Conway, a Nike director at the time, tried to assure board members stateside, that the company was addressing the allegations and doing everything in their power to correct the situation, but she was caught more than once obfuscating the facts and even lying on national television.

Working conditions in Nike’s other operations in the region, such as China and Indonesia, have never been scrutinized in the same manner as a result of stricter controls over information and corporate protection by those nations. Vietnam, itself, is not exactly a bastion of the free press, but its particular history with the United States and struggle to resolve the ongoing tragedy of UXO (unexploded ordinance), which has claimed more than 100,000 Vietnamese victims since the end of the war, gives them a reasonable axe to grind.

Minimum wage in Vietnam back in 1997 was approximately $42 a month, a figure Nike contractors were undercutting. Even at this pay-rate, a $150 pair Air Jordans – a normal retail price at the time – would cost Nike $1.50 to make. Such margins are unheard of for most businesses, but for transnational corporations like Nike, slave-wage labor is the reason they can afford to pay millions for world-scale marketing campaigns like “Just Do It”.

Intentional Grounding

Kaepernick is literally profiting from the worst of capitalism, while he dons the likeness of Malcom X and Fidel Castro on his shirt, and proclaims solidarity with the victims of police brutality in America.

Could it be a case of simple ignorance? Is Kaepernick just not aware of Nike’s history? In a sense, that really doesn’t matter. The fact that it IS Nike may make it more egregious. But, at its core, the problem is that he is leveraging a real and pervasive issue in the country, which he himself brought to the national consciousness, to make a buck.

Had he gone with Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead of Nike, it would hardly make a difference. The point is that everything he claimed to be about can now be called into question, and dismissed as nothing but an attention ploy and/or a lucrative business move.

He has made a mockery of Baltimore and Trayvon Martin, desecrated the image of true civil rights warriors like King, Robinson and Ali. What’s perhaps worse and more insidious is that he has given massive global corporations like Nike cover to pretend that buying their overpriced, slave-labor-manufactured products is some kind of action for social justice, as some people on Twitter are already implying:

Fantasy Football Dialectics

On the flip side, you have the faux patriots, predictably taking the opposite end of the absurd narrative and are defacing or destroying their Nike merchandise, reinforcing the entirely false premise propagated by the flag-waving, Monday-morning quarterbacks, that denounce NFL players who won’t stand for the national anthem from their laz-y-boys.

Trump, of course, seized the political moment and drove a deeper wedge into the American people, who are now more polarized than ever. Both sides of the divide now uphold completely self-defeating positions, and are allowing further encroachment by the ever-strengthening corporate-government alliance.

Not only are police departments around the country increasingly turning to militarized tactics and equipment, but the tech giants – who’ve now successfully corralled the vast majority internet users in their centralized platforms – are implementing  social-justice-flavored censorship strategies.

With this latest move, Nike is appealing to their uninformed, young customers whose brand awareness eclipses their historical awareness. They’re lining up and picking teams in a completely contrived, bogus game to the great detriment of society.

Colin Kaepernick is like a quarterback who throws an interception and starts blocking his own teammates to make sure the opposing team runs it back for a touchdown. Frankly, I wouldn’t want a guy like that on my team, either.

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