Tony Dobrowolski | Out of the Pages: There are other ways to protest
PITTSFIELD — The most explosive business news this week nationally was Nike's decision to use controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the centerpiece of its new ad campaign.
The decision created fireworks on both sides of the issue, with Nike receiving praise in some quarters for its actions, and condemnation in others. The idea didn't play well in the stock market, at least initially, with Nike stock falling 3 percent by midday Tuesday, the day the decision was announced.
I'm not going to take sides on the matter — you can look for that analysis elsewhere. But anyway you look at it, the decision to go with Kaepernick was a gutsy move from a company that is closely associated with corporate America.
"This is a company that's not afraid to take sides," said Tom Stringfellow, the chief investment officer for Frost Investment Advisers, in an interview with CNN Money. "It's part of the brand to be controversial and get their name out there."
The new commercial made its televised debut during Thursday night's National Football League season opener between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. But because the start of the game was delayed for over an hour by thunderstorms, it didn't air on NBC until 10:52 p.m., during the first timeout of the third quarter, according to USA Today. Reaction to the ad on social media Thursday night didn't match the furor that took place when the news of the commercial first broke earlier in the week, but the more muted response may have been due to the time the spot finally aired.
"By the time the commercial finally hit the airwaves, many of the potential viewers and social media commentators might have already started dreaming," stated USA Today, referring to the commercial's premise.
The commercial hasn't hurt Nike's sales. Despite another public relations snafu this year — the company's brand president resigned in March following claims of workplace misconduct — the firm's sales are still up nearly 30 percent this year including Tuesday's stock price drop. But Nike's rivals are catching up. Under Armour stock, for example, is up 40 percent this year. Could a backlash affect Nike's sales the rest of this year. Industry insiders believe that it could.
Some of that backlash has already occurred. People are posting videos of themselves burning their Nike shoes. One man posted a picture of an acquaintance who cut the logo off the top of his Nike socks.
If you want to protest what Nike did, so be it, it's a free country. But burning shoes or cutting out logos smacks of grandstanding and doesn't make sense to me. Nike already has the money that you paid for those items when you bought them. Want to make statement? Donate your Nike apparel to someone who can really use it.
There are plenty of youth sports organizations or veterans association that badly need either equipment or apparel and can't afford it. Why not give it to them? Do something positive for those who are less fortunate.
In March, Nike extended its partnership with the NFL to make game jerseys and sideline apparel for all 32 of the league's teams for another eight years. Burning shoes is one thing. But burning a jersey? Anything is possible, but given the loyalty that fans feel for their teams and the amount of money that they have to shell out for these items, I'd say it's doubtful.
If you really want to make a statement, stop buying fan gear, and give all of your old stuff away. But despite all the grumbling and teeth gnashing over what Nike decided to do, I don't see sales of those items stopping or falling due to the NFL's popularity.
Another thought: It's sad that people can get so worked up over an ad campaign featuring someone who really believes in what he stands for, yet continue to ignore police violence against minorities, which is what Kaepernick has been trying to bring attention to in the first place.
It says a lot about our society now that people will get more worked up over a television commercial than they will over a social issue. It goes without saying that we need to rethink our priorities before it's too late.
Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of the Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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