Monday’s Primetime Emmy Awards offered a chance for participants to make major fashion statements on the red carpet while showing off the work of some of the world’s most high-end designers. Thus it was all the more noteworthy when “Black-ish” actress Jennifer Lewis showed off a relatively casual ensemble featuring a Nike sweater, but it was in the name of making a statement important to her.
“I am wearing Nike to applaud them for supporting Colin Kaepernick and his protest against racial injustice and police brutality,” Lewis, 61, told Variety.
“What can I do? What can I do that’s meaningful? I’ll wear Nike,” she said of making that fashion choice. “I’ll wear Nike to say thank you. Thank you for leading the resistance! We need more corporate America to stand up also.”
Earlier this month, Nike unveiled a major new ad campaign pegged to the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan, with Kaepernick as its centerpiece. The former 49ers quarterback has been a polarizing national figure since August 2016, when he became the first NFL player to stage protests by kneeling during pregame renditions of the national anthem.
While Kaepernick quickly inspired other football players and athletes in different sports to emulate his example, the demonstrations drew sharp criticism from President Trump, beginning when Trump was still campaigning for the White House. Following the 2016 season, Kaepernick was unable to latch on with an NFL team in free agency, and he is pursuing a grievance filing against the league, accusing team owners of colluding to punish him for his social activism.
The timing of the Nike campaign did not appear coincidental, as it was introduced just before the regular season opener for the NFL, for which the company is the exclusive uniform and apparel provider. A tagline with a photo of Kaepernick read: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Despite taking flak from Trump and some consumers who have destroyed Nike gear and called for boycotts, the company’s support for Kaepernick has been accompanied, at least in the short term, by brisk sales and a record stock price. A number of celebrities also have hailed Nike for the campaign, including actors Michael B. Jordan, Russell Crowe and Jamie Lee Curtis, director Ava DuVernay, actress/singer Zendaya and singer/rapper Common.
Lewis’s show, which was nominated for several Emmys, including outstanding comedy series, created Kaepernick-related news earlier this year, when reports emerged that an episode of “Black-ish” featuring a discussion about athletes kneeling during the anthem was being shelved by ABC. “One of the things that has always made ‘Black-ish’ so special is how it deftly examines delicate social issues in a way that simultaneously entertains and educates,” a network spokesperson told Variety in March. “However, on this episode, there were creative differences we were unable to resolve.”
On Monday, after noting that she had her Nike sweater enhanced by adding beads to the “swoosh” logo, Lewis said: “These are not dark times, these are awakening times. And we all have to wake up!”
Asked what she would say to Kaepernick, she replied: “Thank you, Colin. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for being courageous. Thank you for taking a knee. Thank you.”
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