Nike's worldwide corporate mission is "to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world." The Beaverton, Oregon megalith is legendary at sticking to its vision.
Nike's NFL season opener ad was very well done. It was emotionally powerful, inspirational, and centered around sport, which is Nike's world. The message hit right down the center of the company's mission and was everything we expect of the company.
Twenty seconds in, Colin Kaepernick narrates "Because what non-believers fail to understand, is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult. It's a compliment."
The ad told us exactly what Nike believes, and invited us to worship with them at their altar. It was preachy and didactic. It was just the sort of thing, if done by a company like Chick-Fil-A, would cause the "non-believers" to rise up in righteous indignation, call up the Handmaid's Tale cosplayers, and loudly resist against those who would impose a violent and repressive theocracy upon us.
I have no beef with Kaepernick. He is the product of much love and hard work. His 19-year-old mother gave him up for adoption as a baby in 1987. She could have gone with the progressive solution for all unwanted children and aborted him, but she carried and delivered him.
Kaepernick delivered Nike's message powerfully. And it worked: The company's online sales jumped 31% after the ad. Regardless of those who burned their shoes on Twitter, a good evangelical presentation will win believers. Maybe one team in the NFL will even find room for a 16th ranked quarterback to shore up their bench, and improve ticket sales among a certain demographic of Nike's "believers."
Another quarterback who couldn't find or keep a job in the NFL who also preached (but not nearly as slick as Nike's ad) was Tim Tebow. Tebow's 75.3 rating is lower than Kaepernick's 88.9 (compare to Tom Brady's career 97.6, with a high of 117.3), but you don't see Tebow complaining about playing minor league ball for the Mets organization.
A lifelong gifted athlete, Kaepernick could throw a 94 mile per hour fastball in high school. If he wanted to, instead of suing the NFL, he could have probably played professional baseball, even landing a major league spot. Colin Kaepernick is arguably a better all-around athlete than Tim Tebow (they were both born in 1987 and separated at the college level by two years). But Tebow is just as much a "believer" in his own cause as Kaepernick is for Nike's.
It's not Kaepernick's lack of sacrifice that stings in Nike's altar call to "crazy ideas." It's their own ignorance of the God who sacrificed to make people like Kaepernick so gifted.
Jesus Christ sacrificed his life on a cross. He did it out of love for humanity. He did it as a sign that there's a God in heaven who created us, who loves us, and who has given us a moral law written in our hearts, in the context of a supernatural universe He himself designed. Every athlete who overcomes a physical challenge does so with the will and discipline given of us by God.
Kaepernick's loving parents allowed him to develop his physical abilities. His commitment to his political beliefs could not overcome the competitive disadvantages of not being an Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, or Cam Newton. I suppose we could say that Kaepernick did sacrifice his NFL position to uphold his belief that the U.S.A. is not worth standing for.
We could also say that Tim Tebow gave up his NFL position to uphold his belief that Jesus Christ is worth kneeling for (aka "Tebowing").
Imagine how those who praise Nike would be reacting if Chick-Fil-A, the fastest rising fast food company in America, that prospers despite calls for its banning in liberal cities and campuses across the country, ran an ad during football season, with Tim Tebow speaking about challenges and how Christ gave him strength to overcome.
I think whatever outrage you're imagining right now, it would probably fall short of the actual events.
There's nothing wrong with companies like Nike preaching their own gospel, with their own preachers. But if it's okay for Nike, it should be okay for any company or church to promote Christian values.
Sadly, with billboards being removed because Pastor Greg Laurie was holding a Bible, triggering "non-believers," while one thing is considered advertising and free speech, the other is still persecuted.
And sadly, while Tim Tebow humbly accepted his persecution, Nike has elevated Colin Kaepernick to a martyr of their own church.