Editorial: Nike’s ad featuring Kaepernick goes for the big picture

Editorial: Nike’s ad featuring Kaepernick goes for the big picture
September 13
10:55 2018

By James B. Ewers Jr.

Nike’s ad featuring Kaepernick goes for the big picture.

Nike shoes weren’t around when I was growing up in Winston-Salem. Why? Because they hadn’t been created. Nike didn’t become a company until 1971, the year after I graduated from college. According to the history books, Blue Ribbon Sports predated Nike. The founder of Nike, Phil Knight, was also a part of Blue Ribbon Sports. Nike was the Greek goddess of victory.

I can remember going to the Bocock-Stroud store downtown and buying a pair of Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers. The total cost, including tax, was $8.19. I didn’t have any money, so I had to ask my parents.

The Converse shoe came in a low cut or a high top. During my time, I had both varieties. Mind you, I only had one pair at a time. The same sneakers I went to school in were the same sneakers I used when I was playing sports, unlike today, as students wear one pair to the courts and another pair to social events. So, it is safe to assume that a lot of teens have two, maybe three pairs of sneakers.

While I laugh about it now, I guess wearing Converse sneakers meant you had membership in the in-crowd or at least you were being considered. Being a teenager today is no different than back in the day. You want to be recognized and feel like you are somebody. So, walking, playing or running around in a pair of $8.19 sneakers was a big deal.

I don’t remember my friends and me talking about who wore Chuck Taylor Converse shoes. At some point, I found out that Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman of the Boston Celtics wore them.

Chuck Taylor, the person the shoe was named after, was a high school basketball player in Indiana and later became a Converse shoe salesman. I certainly didn’t know any of this at the time of my purchase. I just knew that my friends were wearing them so, I had to wear them, too.

There weren’t any political associations made with sneaker companies. Has that changed?

As we know, former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the playing of the national anthem a few years ago. This action by him has taken on many different viewpoints from across America.

Nike, the one-time sneaker company now maker of athletic equipment, has chosen Colin Kaepernick to be the face and voice of its “Dream Crazy” marketing campaign. Included in this promotion are stars like LeBron James and Serena Williams. The advertisements will be run during the NFL season.

Kaepernick in the promo says, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Some people are upset with Nike and have chosen to burn their sneakers in protest. I believe there is a small percentage of shoe burners.

Nike’s well-tested slogan, “Just Do It,” is certainly in play here. This campaign is really about athletes who have beaten the odds. For example, Serena’s story is well-documented. When asked, rising tennis star Naomi Osaka said that Serena was her role model. Shaquem Griffin plays linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks and plays with one hand.

Sports, like life, present their set of challenges.  Nike in its ad is simply highlighting those athletes who saw the mountain and climbed it. Cheers for Nike!

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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