It never really bothered me that Colin Kaepernick went to his knees during the national anthem. I’m a 49er football fan and I didn’t care what Kaepernick did before games, so long as he threw touchdowns.
I’d followed Kaepernick through his career at the University of Nevada — Reno and was happy when the 49ers decided to draft him. While his arm and accuracy were so-so, Kaepernick was one of the first quarterbacks who could beat you with his legs.
When his legs slowed, his inability to really throw a forward pass the way a quarterback needs to throw a forward pass in the NFL today limited his value.
Even then, the 49ers gave him a multi-year contract worth several million dollars.
Once he had secured his millions, Kaepernick decided it was time for him to do something about the injustices in America, so he sat during the anthem, becoming an instant media darling (ESPN just loves him). Nothing drives ratings like controversy and Kaepernick provided it.
Within a couple of weeks, ESPN began listing the players who took a knee that Sunday and … of course … the list started to grow.
Soon, Kaepernick was being compared to the likes of Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders for his courage and determination. Never mind that Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders were beaten, jailed, hosed and chewed by German shepherds for wanting basic human rights, while Kaepernick merely sat on his helmet during a pre-game song, knowing that he’d have millions in the bank at the end of the day no matter what.
Someone at Nike wondered how the company might parlay Kaepernick’s appeal, so it signed him to a contract worth several more millions, making him the shoe company’s face of humanity and social injustice.
I thought that was terrific. Why get your brains knocked in on a football field when you can be the Chief of Morality and Social Justice for a shoe company that makes its shoes in China and Vietnam?
I’ll get to the social injustice of that in a minute.
As you know, this was the anniversary week of our nation. July Fourth. Independence Day. Red, white and blue. Hot dogs. Beer. Baseball. Beaches. Fireworks and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Someone at Nike forgot to check with Kaepernick and designed a special July Fourth sneaker decorated with our nation’s first flag that was supposed to be released this week for more than $100 per pair.
Most of you are too young to remember, but our first flag was designed by Elizabeth Griscom Ross (aka Betsy) and it featured 13 stars for the original 13 states.
Somehow Kaepernick found out about the planned launch of the red, white and blue shoe and sent a note to Nike saying that he and some of his friends found it offensive because there were slaves back when we had just 13 states and that the flag was therefore a symbol of racism.
Never mind that the Betsy Ross flag was never included in the growing list of offensive words, symbols and songs. All it took was for Kaepernick to say he found the flag offensive and that was the end of the shoe.
Another nail in the coffin of history. Wiped as clean as a Nixon Watergate tape. Soon, all evidence of our existence will be erased.
Now let’s talk about Nike and social injustice for a minute.
I assume Kapernick knows where Nike makes its shoes and how much the workers in China and Vietnam are paid to make those shoes that sell for $100 on up?
It’s why Nike has enough money to pay Kapernick and other super athletes millions of dollars to wear its shoes and to be the guardians of justice.
According to reports, Nike has around 91 factories in Vietnam, where it employs more than 400,000 workers. The average worker earns roughly $150 (USD) per month, which is around the price of one of Nike’s shoes. That same report indicated that Nike had another 39 factories in Indonesia, where the average worker earned less than $100 per month.
If we assume that the average Nike factory worker puts in a 40-hour work week (and there are reports that many of them put in 60 hours a week or more), the hourly rate is less than 50 cents.
For some fun math, let’s assume that four factory workers in Indonesia can make a Nike sneaker in an hour. That means Nike paid $2 for labor for a shoe that retails for $150. If we throw in the cost for material, overhead and shipping, that shoe is probably marked up 500 percent?
The details of Kapernick’s 2018 deal with Nike were not disclosed, but most agree it is worth tens of millions of dollars. In addition to telling Nike what is or isn’t offensive, he will reportedly receive royalties from shoes and other Nike merchandise that will allow him to provide for his family for many future generations.
Or … as long as those workers in China, Vietnam and Indonesia keep working 60 hours a week for 50 cents an hour.
That, my friends, is truly offensive.
Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 665-1160 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.