So here’s my take on the Nike situation. This is in no way a commentary on Mr. Kaepernick, race relations or any other social justice issue that may or may not be involved. Nor is it intended to be cynical, derisive or even critical.
It’s just my observation, based on 56 years of watching this stuff unfold.
As Michael Corleone once said, “It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.”
While all the social justice warriors are celebrating and others are crying foul, Nike has pulled off a brilliant business move.
They have secured the #1 spot in the attention category in American discussion-land, where, for the most part, people (on both “sides”) who were never really instructed how to think critically generally speak the loudest and use the most damning social pariah labels for those with whom they disagree.
Nike will take a hit in the short-term. But this was a “can’t fail” move. If it backfires, they can walk it back and roll out some pseudo-patriotic fanfare or make a big donation to some military charity to assuage those who require it.
If it works, as it likely will, they secure their place in the social justice hall of fame, (socially conscious company wing) and become “permanent” rulers of the pseudo-urban life-space.
They will likely secure their place as the “go to” for up-and-coming African-American athletes, signing far more of them than they might otherwise have done. Ditto for young, socially conscious athletes of other racial backgrounds.
They will, in turn, sell more really expensive shoes and clothing to their target market. That target market is, of course, young people and the sports- and, I suppose now, socially-conscious people they intend to inspire.
All well and good. Socially aware capitalism at work. I salute that.
The irony? Much like one aspect of the “Air Jordan” experience of some years ago, the market most likely to want the shoes and gear associated with the new African-American athletes Nike is more likely to sign are…wait for it…lower to middle income Americans, urban and suburban, black, white and other.
These youth (and/or their parents,) who largely can’t afford the $175 or more that the new shoes will likely cost will, as we saw with the Air Jordan experiment, sacrifice, go into debt or worse to get a pair.
And in suburbia and beyond, the shoes will fly off the shelves, bolstering Nike’s top and bottom lines. Kids will spend their lunch, work and all other money to get the shoes. Mom and dad will spend their money out of either brand loyalty, a shifted mindset about Nike and what they “stand for” or because little Billy or Sally whined long enough that it was easier to buy the shoes than tolerate the bitching.
In all cases, Nike will make billions.
Most likely, not much will change as it relates to issues Mr. Kaepernick and his supporters seek change around and within.
But Nike will make billions.
A quick review of Nike’s shareholder list reveals that 6 of the top 7 individual shareholders are white guys. 4 of them are old, white guys.
After that, it’s all mutual funds and ETF’s, run by, you guessed it, white guys (mostly, and mostly old-ish.)
Nike’s move was brilliant. Absolutely. They will make billions as a result of what is likely to come after this.
And white guys, mostly old white guys, are going to make a fortune. A very large fortune.
Social justice isn’t blind. But in this case, it is ironic.
My advice to all those cheering or jeering this particular piece of corporatocracy in action – look deeper. Don’t be fooled – again.