To register their displeasure with the choice of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback — who said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” after taking a knee during the national anthem before a 2016 preseason game — a number of people announced on social media that they were junking their Nike gear. The tops of socks were cut off in order to remove the offensive swoosh; kicks were kicked into the fire so feet could be free of the oppression of disagreement.
My first instinct, as always during a kerfuffle like this, is to urge forbearance, to remind people that one need not agree with every stance a company, an artist or a family member takes to appreciate them. After all, progressives have rather quickly set aside decades of complaints about sweatshop-like conditions in Nike factories to applaud the firm’s efforts to woke-wash its image; certainly conservatives could do the same when it comes to Kaepernick’s protest at anthem time.
But, in an age when “owning the Libs” is the highest priority for many, how can forbearance compare to angrily destroying one’s own property for likes and retweets, and shares and clicks on social media?
If you can’t turn the other cheek, a sick burn is better than burning your shorts: I don’t think any tagline in history has been more easily memed than “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” You can stick that motto (or a play on it) on just about anyone (Paul Manafort; Thanos; an Aztec priest preparing to rip the beating heart from a man’s chest to ensure the return of the sun during an eclipse) to show it is an empty platitude designed to make people feel good about themselves, one made all the more empty when it is applied to someone who, while not setting foot on the field, is still racking up advertising dollars.
It may be gratifying to punch up against a massively powerful corporation and the incredibly wealthy face of that corporation, but it doesn’t solve the problem in your closet, does it? There’s that stylized checkmark, looking back at you. It fills you with blind rage every time you have to think about someone disagreeing with you, daring to hold a contrary opinion. Just awful, that checkmark.
So you want to cleanse yourself. To purge the unrighteous high-tops and jerseys and socks from your sight. Instead of lighting these items on fire — which, in addition to destroying them also makes you a figure of fun to the libs you so want to own — perhaps there’s a better way to empty out your closet: by donating the offending goods to charity.
What better way to show that your community has had enough of Nike’s coddling of people who do not want “to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country” that made them rich and famous? What better way to demonstrate that you are, in fact, a community and not a klatch of isolated, angry people on Twitter? What better way to help those in need while also sticking it to those you hate by flooding the market with goods the sales of which won’t aid Nike’s bottom line?
Think of the message that would be sent by Nikes showing up by the crateful at local Salvation Army or Goodwill outlets. Such imagery would prove irresistible to news outlets trying to find a local angle to this national story. Surely, folks who oppose the politicization of sports — social-media influencers such as Outkick the Coverage’s Clay Travis, who has a book on the subject titled “Republicans Buy Sneakers, Too” coming out in just a few weeks — could serve as organizers in these efforts, offering up names and addresses for collection points to maximize the redistribution of Air Jordans.
I’d do it myself but, to be quite honest, I have no interest in giving up my Aaron Rodgers jersey or my comfy black sweatpants (my game-day uniform). Or setting them ablaze only to buy them again in 12 months after everyone has forgotten about this latest skirmish in our never-ending culture war.