Despite a visionary ad campaign that has right-wingers' knickers in a collective twist, I can't bring myself to let Nike off the hook for practically inventing the offshoring of manufacturing (and the liability for abuse of employees) to third-party mega-sweatshops in low-wage countries just because I support Colin Kaepernick's campaign of racial wokeness.
The way the Kaep Controversy is playing out on social media is a microcosm of #GreenLyfe—or of identifying with any political movement that opposes the Duopoly, especially on the left. The continued presence and preeminence of the Duopoly has created an epidemic of binary thinking: i.e., if you're not A, you must be B.
If you don't support Democratic candidates, and especially if you have the temerity to vote Third Party, then you effectively support their Republican counterparts.
If you don't support Nike's uplifting of Kaep's message and vow to buy Nike stuff at the next opportunity, you must be one of those right-wing shitwits piling up Nike apparel specifically to torch it.
No. No, no, no, and fuck no. Did I mention no? This false-alternatives reasoning is bad for America. It's like saying that if I don't buy Nike, then I must buy Reebok. There are more brands of shoes in heaven and earth, Horatio, than your tiny dualistic mind can philosophize—and more political viewpoints as well.
Labor Day Nostalgia Trip
On Labor Day afternoon, as I was triaging possessions brought home from storage (keep at home, put back in storage, trash/recycle), I laid my hand on what may be the only Nike product I have ever purchased: my son's first pair of sneakers from when he was a toddler. No, I haven't had them bronzed yet. Is that still a thing?
Shortly after that purchase in 1992, I started hearing the reports of Nike's overseas contracting practices, compounding its already troublesome pricing of Air Jordans well beyond the reach of their target market and violence breaking out over them in low-income neighborhoods like the one where I was teaching.
I have steered clear of Nike-brand products ever since, including Houston Dash gear that features the Swoosh (which Jim Hightower has called "the Swooshtika"), and have seen one shoe company after another do the same damn thing.
Nike hasn't been an unalloyed evil. Spending all those years flogging Nike apparel helped Spike Lee in making the independent films he wanted to make, albeit with much higher budgets than his excellent early work. Lee has probably earned more shooting Nike TV spots than from all his feature films combined. (I have no way of knowing whether he did, short of asking him, but there's a reason his character Mars gave Michael Jordan the nickname "Money.")
Running the Country (into the Ground) Like a Business
Even our alleged president, the über-capitalist personification of the proverbial Broken Clock, now and again says something with which I find myself agreeing. That doesn't elevate my opinion of him, especially given that he is likely either lying or just spewing whatever words escape his head via his gigantic pie-hole. Neither does Nike's signing of Kaepernick, when 0 of 32 NFL teams would hire him even as a backup QB, elevate my opinion of that corporation.
But this doesn't mean that I or any of my comrades agree with Kaepernick's haters either, let alone that we'll join them at the bonfire. Why is that so difficult for so many otherwise intelligent folks to understand?
Similarly, despite the progressive noises that Democratic politicians sometimes emit, they are not entitled to my vote by default. The Democratic Party itself is still very much on Team Wall Street. As Nancy Pelosi flat-out stated, "We're capitalists." If Democrats occasionally talk like Socialists or Progressives, before I vote for them they should demonstrate a bona fide history of advocating for progressive policies as candidates, or a truly progressive voting record as office-holders.
Knowing what I know about how Congress works, I'm willing to forgive the occasional slip, the vote that seems out of character, but I'm not willing to overlook votes that benefit Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Defense, or the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia (our partners in the Axis of Evil).
I have seen and heard too many self-identified Republicans say that we should run this country like a business. We have also seen Milton Friedman's Shock Doctrine austerity regimens implemented in various countries, too often with disastrous results. We have seen Iraq turned into a laboratory for government as business under George W. Bush's viceroys, running Iraq like one of Bush's failed oil companies. And now...President Trump ('nuff said).
Late-stage capitalism, with the planet's natural resources dwindling, is an era of desperation. Despite their decades of ingenious marketing of overpriced sportswear, Nike's making Kaepernick the omnipresent face of its advertising looks like a last-second Hail Mary pass to me.