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A Simple Explanation for Nike and Kaepernick

The media and Wall Street are bewildered over Nike running ads featuring National Anthem-kneeler Colin Kaepernick.  He may be a mediocre professional football player and sub-par thinker, but he's an all-star in getting publicity for his social-justice causes, whatever they may be.

Conservative media have gone beyond bewilderment into brain aneurisms.  They can't understand why Nike would alienate many of its customers and see its share price fall by endorsing a guy who, in their minds, is so unpatriotic that he has besmirched America's national sport.

National sport?  Football has morphed from a great game played in the elements by the sons of steelworkers and other working stiffs to an audience-endurance contest played indoors.  And what a tough contest it is.  It consists of hours and hours of hype, of talking heads pondering how many receivers can dance on the head of a pin, of more than 40 commercials per hour, of halftimes that resemble Roman bread and circuses, and of military displays that rival those in Red Square—all of which is interspersed with only 15 minutes of playing time.

Our real national sport is mass consumerism, where the participants pay to wear logos instead of being paid to wear them.  Old fogeys like me who don't play this sport are ridiculed for refusing to wear shoes and shirts with swooshes, alligators, and polo players on horseback.  We're not hip, you know.  But it is hip to be an unpaid walking billboard for some huge corporation.   Which brings us back to Nike.

The explanation for Nike hiring Kaepernick is simple:  Nike understands that its future depends on younger generations of consumers, and it further understands that these generations have been so steeped in diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice, that these vague and oftentimes hollow values have become just as important as the product that a company sells.

Scores of companies besides Nike have realized this, as evidenced by their advertising.  Take a commercial for a financial company, the name of which I can't remember, because I always try to erase from memory the sponsors of ridiculous ads.  It shows a hard-charging black female executive in a factory that makes eyeglasses.  Well-dressed like no operations executive I've ever known, she barks orders: "Make it cheaper, make it faster, make it better." One scene shows her breaking in two a pair of poorly made glasses.  Then in the last scene, she is shown distributing glasses to poor kids in what looks like sub-Saharan Africa.  The voice-over babbles a cliché about making a difference in the world.  There is no mention of the features and benefits of the sponsoring product itself—no attempt to even explain why someone should buy the product or what the hell the product has to do with kids in Africa.

A glaring irony is lost on the target audience of brainwashed imbeciles. (I'm an expert on brainwashed imbeciles, for in my youth I was a brainwashed imbecile and am now just an imbecile.) The irony is that Wall Street financial firms, in conjunction with their cronies in regulatory agencies, caused the Great Recession and its worldwide economic hardships, and then were bailed out by taxpayers instead of their executives being put in stocks in Times Square.   Now we're supposed to believe that they care about Africans.

Ad agencies also don't care about Africans but pretend otherwise.  I know, because I used to work for an international consumer products company headquartered in metro New York and would attend marketing/advertising strategy meetings in Manhattan and environs.  It was worse than water-boarding to watch the male and female "Mad Men" use their Ivy League degrees to snooker consumers.  Trying to leverage the cultural zeitgeist of the day, they'd discuss how many of each race should be shown in a commercial and what their economic circumstance should be.   This is how the point has been reached today where all blacks are portrayed in commercials as accomplished people—as executives, doctors, lawyers, perfect parents, and, in Kaepernick's case, a person who nobly sacrificed his career for a noble cause.

Granted, such portrayals are far better than when advertisements kept blacks in the background or portrayed them as Step-and-Fetch-It, while whites were shown living in a pretty bungalow surrounded by a white picket fence, with perfect kids and a collie running around the yard.  Popular TV shows had a similar picket-fence theme, such as "Leave It to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," and "My Three Sons."

Of course, both portrayals were unreal.  Many blacks were accomplished at the time while many others were still suffering from the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow and should have been honored for their grit and determination.  At the same time, many whites were living in tenements, double-wides, and tarpaper shacks, not in pretty bungalows with white picket fences.

Another reality isn't addressed in commercials—namely, the high incidence of fatherless families and the terrible social consequences of boys being raised by mothers and grandmothers without a male role model.  The incidence of fatherlessness is now 30% for whites, which is where it used to be for blacks 60 years ago.  In the intervening years, the rate for blacks has more than doubled to a startling 70%.

For the white 30%, this is a major cause of crime, drug abuse, and school dropouts.  And for the black 70%, it is a major cause of not only these social ills but also for black-on-black shootings, black-on-cop shootings, and cop-on-black shootings.  Where is the kneeling about this?

Even foreign companies are using an idealized version of race in their commercials   For example, Mercedes-Benz is running a commercial portraying a white man and a black woman as lovers.    On the surface, there's not a damn thing wrong with interracial dating and marriage, nor with portraying this in the media.  After all, that's far, far better than the old anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited interracial marriage and discouraged interracial dating.

   

Moreover, kudos to those who make interracial relationships and marriages work.  It's hard enough to make them work even when both people are of the same race—and of the same social class and religion.  It can become even harder when they are different in one of these factors.  Heck, my second-generation Italian parents had conflicts over the fact that one had roots in Piedmont, Italy, and the other, in Lombard, Italy.

     

It used to be that black men dated and married white women in much higher percentages than white men dated and married black women.  I have no idea why that was and whether it has changed today, but it would be good if it has changed.  I just wonder how Mercedes decided on its angle and am pretty sure that hours were spent at the ad agency debating what racial signal the company wanted to send. 

Why send any?  Why not focus on the car instead?

The main problem with the Mercedes commercial is that Mercedes-Benz is a German company.  This would be the same Germany that is 88% German (white) and that is having a xenophobic backlash to an influx of immigrants, most of whom are from Muslim countries and are not black.  (When I went to Germany for business and pleasure, the only blacks I saw were in the U.S. military.)  Yet a German car company has the cynicism and hypocrisy to run a commercial in America that it probably wouldn't run in Berchastgarten, Bavaria.

Companies that mix racial, social, and political messages with their commercials don't get my business, but they do get the business of younger generations.  Maybe someday the nation's youth will follow my lead and progress from being brainwashed imbeciles to being just plain ole imbeciles. 

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