Demonstrating once again its mastery of advertising, Nike released an advertising campaign including Colin Kaepernick. While some have responded by burning their own Nike products, the campaign has been successful and has resulted in a surge in sales.
Since Trump has gone after Kaepernick for protesting, it is not surprising that some Trump supporters have attacked Nike’s campaign. It is also not surprising that Nike’s call center became a target for racists. While Nike certainly merits protest, this is because of its sweatshops and not because it is slickly turning social justice issues into profit. This, obviously enough, explains the rage against Nike by Trump supporters and others. As they see it, Kaepernick is a terrible person who disrespected the troops and is un-American. By using him in the campaign, Nike is colluding with Kaepernick and is thus showing it hates the troops. Or so their “reasoning” goes.
While Kaepernick is famous for not standing for the anthem, he has been clear that he did not do this to disrespect the troops. He was protesting the oppression of black people and police violence. It is worth noting that there is a long history of spectators simply ignoring the national anthem and even fans who persistently “desecrate” the anthem. As such, concern about the anthem is rather selective and the “charges” against Kaepernick seem utterly unfounded. It is also worth noting that NFL players were not required to be on the sidelines during the anthem prior to 2009 and that the link between the NFL and the troops seems to have been manufactured by “paid patriotism.”
It must, of course, be pointed out that the origin of the link between the NFL and patriotism does not invalidate the belief that not standing for the anthem at an NFL game disrespects the troops. To think that the origin of a belief disproves a belief would be to fall victim to the genetic fallacy. These fans are, however, in error since intent is a critical factor in assessing whether an action is disrespectful or not. Kaepernick has made it clear that his protest is not about the troops and there is no compelling reason to believe that his silent and respectful protest was disrespecting the troops.
It is, however, reasonable for the fans to be concerned about people showing disrespect for the troops, especially for those who have served with great honor or who have died in service to the country. If Kaepernick were engaged in insulting the troops or mocking veterans, then there would be grounds for condemning him. But, he did not do any of that. As such, the energy of people who are worried about respect for veterans should be focused elsewhere, on those who disrespect the troops. Naturally, if they are worried about Kaepernick because he is famous and getting national attention, their concern should be aimed at others who are famous and getting national attention. And there is no one more famous or getting more attention while also disrespecting the troops and being un-American than Donald Trump.
While Kaepernick quietly protested at NFL games, Trump has been actively hostile to veterans. The most famous incident is probably Trump’s 2015 claim that John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured. Trump also got into a battle with the Khans, whose son died heroically for the United States. Trump also has a rather unfortunate track record when it comes to charity and veterans. While Trump did get some criticism for these actions, his supporters generally did not waver nor did they raise their voices in defense of the troops. Given the rage that many Trump supporters show towards Kaepernick and the love they profess to have for the troops, this behavior is extremely inconsistent. Trump, after all, has done far more to disrespect the troops than Kaepernick. As such, Trump supporters should either shut up about Kaepernick or take Trump to task with even greater fervor than they direct against Kaepernick.
I am not in any way asserting that Trump’s supporters should be compelled to shut up or to speak against Trump’s virulent disrespect for the troops. His supporters have the same right to free expression (or silence) and protest as Kaepernick and everyone else. However, if they want to profess a love for the troops and America, then they need to be consistent and condemn Trump. If they praise Trump and attack Kaepernick, then it would seem absurd to claim that they are acting from a love of the troops and America. There would need to be some other reasons in play, otherwise they would be condemning Trump and at least tolerating Kaepernick.