BY VINCENT WOO
Two years following the emergence of U.S. national anthem protests, a pair of September 2018 Nike advertisements featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has become a talking point among UHS students.
The debate received attention at UHS in October 2017 when a small number of students, including senior Douglas Sun and former student Pailani Ledbetter, also kneeled for the national anthem prior to the homecoming football game in response to the Kaepernick protest.
Some students at UHS have responded with their opinions about the gamble Nike took by publishing the advertisements.
“I’m very surprised and impressed by Nike who is such a large company to not only make Kaepernick the focus of their ad but also the narrator of it,” Sun said. “It was really interesting and also a bit surprising for them to…put their financial gain aside for a moral decision.”
Other students have taken to kneeling or sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance, recited weekly at UHS. Senior Rahan Arasteh does not stand for the pledge, and “has not done so for several years.”
“It first started out as not agreeing with parts of it, especially ‘under God’… [until] eventually I realized it’s just not a normal thing to be pledging allegiance to your country every week,” Arasteh said. “It’s not like the American experience is the same for everyone. Some people have it harder than others, and if you need to protest to show that, [then] protest to show that.”
Kaepernick became a topic of controversy around the country after kneeling during the national
anthem before a game with the Green Bay Packers in August 2016. The picture advertisement and promotional video marked the 30th anniversary of apparel and footwear corporation Nike’s trademark catchphrase “Just Do It” alongside other prominent athletes, such as tennis star Serena Williams and basketball star LeBron James.
The advertisement reignited the debate as to if kneeling is disrespectful to the flag or a sign of solidarity against police brutality against African-Americans, encapsulated in the Black Lives Matter movement, which was brought to national attention after the controversial shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown by Caucasian police officer Darren Wilson.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an interview with NFL.com.
Despite some minor backlash,the majority of Americans support the ad campaign, according to a Quinnipiac University poll indicating a 67% approval and 30% disapproval of the advertisement with a sample size of 1,037 people. In response to the ad’s release, Nike’s stock value shot up 36% on the year, with an addition $6 billion added to the corporation’s total market value.
Students attending public schools enjoy the right to peaceful protest, a right affirmed by the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines, which saw a group of five students successfully challenge the Des Moines Independent Community School District’s decision of suspending them for wearing black armbands protesting the ongoing Vietnam War. UHS students enjoy the right to sit or kneel for the pledge or national anthem because of the legal precedent the case forms.