September 11, 2018

By Gonzalo López Martí - Creative director, etc/LMMiami.com

  • I guess everything that could be said about the Nikaepernick salvo has already been voiced, written and memed.
  • Want my personal opinion?
  • It was a genius marketing move.
  • Nike is the establishment.
  • It needs street cred, and edge, an epic.
  • It is under siege by multiple barbarians at its gates: Adidas, UnderArmour, New Balance, Puma, Lululemon and Babolat, to name a few.
  • Converse?
  • Not really: unbeknownst to most people who believe the maker of the legendary Chuck Taylors is some sort of countercultural niche brand, Converse is owned and controlled by Nike.
  • Naturally, they don’t want you to know it.
  • In any case, let’s say that, thanks to the Colin Kaepernick, inner city kids will keep on buying Nike apparel they don’t need at prices they can’t afford for a long time a’coming.
  • As usual, the rest of us suburban chumps and weekend warriors will follow suit in a desperate quest for some elusive shred of vicarious mojo.
  • This is a big win for Kaepernick, whose career was all but terminated after his squabble with the NFL over his social/political activism.
  • Kaepernick is a very good QB but he’s not the Lebron James of football.
  • He’s already in his 30s and his stats as a player would’ve never landed him a contract as the protagonist of a national Nike campaign.
  • His claim to fame is the kneeling down he used to do during the National Anthem before games.
  • Was it really so disrespectful?
  • Come on.
  • It was fairly dignified way to stage a protest.
  • He was not flicking the middle finger, he was not grabbing his crotch, he was not burning the flag.
  • People who saw it as some sort of affront to all the values America stands for are hyperventilating a bit, or so methinks.
  • Make no mistake, it is the hyperventilating armchair patriots who landed Colin Kaepernick his fat endorsement contract with Nike.
  • They did his bidding by lavishing him with attention.
  • Never troll a troll.
  • I can understand if, say, war heroes such as John McCain (RIP) or former senator and presidential candidate John Kerry voiced their discontent.
  • OK.
  • But to listen to our beleaguered draft-dodging POTUS make a fuss about it is a bit of a stretch.
  • Anyhoo.
  • Race and gender relations are a minefield.
  • More often than not, when you think you are gaining ground you are just walking into a boobytrap.
  • Now let’s shift our gaze from McCain to McEnroe.
  • Did Serena Williams think she was pulling a Kaepernick last Saturday at the US Open final?
  • As far as publicity stunts go, my assessment is she missed the mark big time.
  • Not sure we will outmaneuver the tyranny of “straight white men” with this type of antics.
  • It sounds counterintuitive, I know, but we must outclass them.
  • We must show maximum grace under pressure.
  • A lot of folks in the media are attempting to spin Serena’s outburst as the righteous outrage of a wronged woman in the face of injustice.
  • A victim of the establishment.
  • Really?
  • If you ask me, last Saturday at the Arthur Ashe stadium Serena Williams WAS the establishment.
  • The diva with multimillion endorsements from global corporate behemoths in all the branding and marketing categories imaginable.*
  • Among other ill-timed statements such as calling the umpire “a thief” she yelled “I am a mother, I have a child.”
  • Well she kinda behaved like a child herself.
  • For one thing, it was one big TV commercial for the Trump movement.
  • Dont’ shoot me, I’m just the messenger, but Serena’s tantrum confirmed the stereotypes and biases so many bigots hold against us minorities: that we are brash, unruly and unstable sore losers incapable of following the rules, with utter disregard for decorum when we reach positions of wealth or power.
  • No, Serena, you were not the victim last Saturday.
  • If we are going to play the victimization game, well, just so you know, your opponent whose big day you ruined was a 21-year old mixed race immigrant trying to win her first Grand Slam and the umpire you insulted on national TV is some Portuguese dude trying to do his job under a lot of pressure.
  • They hardly are the powers that be or The Man.
  • Serena, you’ve already won dozens and dozens of trophies.
  • At 36 you are possibly the winning most athlete in the history of professional sports, female or otherwise.
  • You’re married to one of the richest men in Silicon Valley.
  • Your conspiracy theory doesn’t stick.
  • It came across as a sheer display of unbridled hubris and entitlement, y’know?
  • But men lash out at umpires all the time!
  • Well, imitating foul play doesn’t is not the best way to denounce it, if you ask me.
  • Let alone combat it.
  • Nike must not be happy: 20-year old Naomi Osaka, ranked 19th before she beat serena to the US Open, is sponsored by its nemesis Adidas. **
  • Anyway.
  • Let’s try to draw some conclusions and learn a few lessons out of these recent events.
  • What strategy should we follow to put an end to the sexist and racist bias so pervasive in various walks of life?
  • How about the Nelson Mandela way?
  • To be sure, it is indeed counterintuitive.
  • It demands superhuman levels of zen patience and self-control.
  • But it might be the only way for minorities to prove them bigots wrong.
  • See, Mandela was mistreated as badly as any human being can be.
  • Over 30 years of torture and confinement.
  • When he was freed, the logic of his political opponents was pretty clear: his rage will betray him, he will seek revenge, it will be a massive told-you-so, a huge embarrassment, he will shoot himself in the foot and we will score big political points.
  • But Mandela outsmarted them.
  • He showed the utmost grace.
  • He became a towering figure of leadership.
  • He used the attention he was attracting to his advantage and stripped his opponents of all their prejudiced arguments.
  • He got the last laugh.
  • Kinda like Colin Kaepernick, in a way.
  • Serena’s meltdown?
  • Not really.
  • Is it the responsibility of pro athletes under a lot of pressure from press, fans and sponsors to be civil rights role models and social activists too?
  • Yes.
  • Deliberately or not, they brought it upon themselves.
  • It might be too late to shy away from it.

*Serena’s sponsors include: Nike, luxury watch manufacturer Audemars Piguet, Gatorade, Wilson rackets, Intel, JPMorgan Chase, TempurPedic, Beats by Dr Dre, among others.
**Oddly enough, Naomi Osaka’s sponsor include: Adidas, Yonex rackets, watch manufacturer Citizen and Nissin Cup Noodles.

 

 

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