Category Archives: Olympics

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick TV ad is inspirational, not controversial

The question Friday morning wasn’t whether President Trump would tweet about the debut of Colin Kaepernick’s Nike commercial but whether it would be the first thing he would tweet about after waking up.

And there it was, first thing on the presidential docket at 6:56 a.m.

“What was Nike thinking?” Trump tweeted rather briefly and directly.

But if you actually watched the commercial that aired on NBC during the third quarter of season-opening games between the Falcons and Eagles, it’s pretty obvious what Nike is thinking – and it’s not whether to take a knee during the national anthem.

All you need to know about Nike’s ultimate goal with the Kaepernick campaign is contained in the ad’s first minute. It begins with a skateboarder falling off a rail, a child with no legs on a wrestling mat, an African-American boy who couldn’t be 10 years old running down a dirt road, a young shadowboxing woman wearing hijab, a surfer, a Pop Warner football game and a blond girl playing high school football against boys.

This isn’t about consumers Nike might lose in their anger over Kaepernick. It’s about cultivating an entire generation of consumers who are up for grabs at a moment where the lines between culture, politics and activism are blurry – a notion that might make older people uncomfortable but is now the coming-of-age reality for anyone under 18.

Ironically, if you take Kaepernick out of the ad, there is nothing controversial about the images and words contained inside of it. “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy; ask if they’re crazy enough” seems like it could be a tag line to practically any Nike ad campaign, a direct link to the “Just Do it” slogan the company is celebrating with a 30th anniversary push.

Every one of those images connects to the overall theme of being different, of overcoming some type of obstacle or stereotype, which fits in well with why Kaepernick is here in the first place rather than playing quarterback in the NFL.

But it also seems designed to appeal to teenagers, without making it necessary to align with Kaepernick’s political and social justice views.

Yes, it’s Kaepernick’s voice and his image at the end, walking down a city street wearing a black mock turtleneck underneath a tan coat. But there is nothing in the ad that connects him to football or the NFL, even though his own backstory – being adopted by white parents, getting one college scholarship offer from Nevada and ultimately quarterbacking a team to the Super Bowl – contains some of the same inspirational threads as the people he’s narrating over.

Moreover, the commercial’s only allusion to the protest he sparked is subtle. As the camera brings Kaepernick into view from behind – you recognize him by his Afro – he’s standing and looking at a waving American flag being projected onto a building.

Then, as Kaepernick walks out of the frame, the images of the young people from earlier in the ad appear on those buildings and the words are flashed on the screen: “It’s only crazy until you do it. Just do it.”

Casting Kaepernick in this light is interesting because he’s the only person in the ad who isn’t shown playing a sport or wearing some type of Nike gear. That seems intentional, as if to acknowledge that he’s moved beyond the sports context and into the zeitgeist of these political and cultural times.

And when you think about what Nike’s actually trying to accomplish here, it makes perfect sense.

Though Nike has been the country’s preeminent sneaker and sports apparel company for a generation, Adidas has steadily been making headway, particularly with younger people. In the second quarter of 2018, Adidas posted a $485 million profit, shattering Wall Street expectations. That followed nine consecutive quarters in which the company’s sales increased by at least 20%.

Fueled by its alliance with pop culture stars such as Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, Adidas has made up significant ground and surpassed Jordan Brand (a Nike subsidiary) last year as No. 2 in the sneaker game.

Nike didn’t really have a comparable face, and many of its preeminent athletes they’ve been associated with outside the NBA (such as Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Serena Williams) are at the back end of their careers and don’t necessarily identify with teenagers. But that’s what shoe companies have to do: Figure out not just who their customers are now, but who their customers are going to be in five years, 10 years and beyond.

That’s who this is aimed at. We’re on the cusp of welcoming a generation of kids into adulthood who grew up with politics being injected into practically every area of their lives. Whether that’s a good thing will be for others to determine, but it’s a moment that’s happening and Nike is looking for a way to capitalize on it.

Kaepernick probably won’t sell a lot of shoes to my contemporaries. But would the ad that played Thursday night resonate with high school kids who are growing up in a confusing, polarized, politically active era? Nike is counting on it.

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Aly Raisman Suing U.S. Olympic Committee

Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman filed suit against the U.S. Olympic Committee for failing to take action to prevent former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University team doctor Larry Nassar from molesting hundreds of young athletes, according to news reports.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in California but announced Friday, accuses the committee of bungling its response to sexual abuse allegations against Nassar, who is now serving a long prison term for sex crimes.

“After all this time, they remain unwilling to conduct a full investigation, and without a solid understanding of how this happened, it is delusional to think sufficient changes can be implemented,” Raisman said in a statement, according to NBC. “I refuse to wait any longer for these organizations to do the right thing. It is my hope that the legal process will hold them accountable and enable the change that is so desperately needed.”

A USA Gymnastics trainer was sometimes present during treatment sessions where Nassar abused young athletes at the Karolyi Ranch, Raisman alleges in the suit, according to NBC News.

Raisman, in recent interviews, has accused the USOC of ignoring allegations against Nassar and threatening her not to tell how he molested her under the guise of treatment.

“I was told [by USA Gymnastics] to be quiet,” Raisman told ESPN in January. “And I think that when somebody in high power is telling you to be quiet, right when they realized you are abused, I think that that is a threat. USA Gymnastics just said, ‘We’re handling this. We got this. Like, stop asking us questions.’”

Raisman, a gold medalist who competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, was among more than 100 women who alleged Nassar sexually abused them. He pleaded guilty to child pornography and sexual assault charges and was sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

The USOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The group’s CEO, Scott Blackmun, resigned on Wednesday after a cancer diagnosis.

“Under his leadership, USOC has focused nearly all its efforts on money and medals while the safety of our athletes has taken a back seat,” attorney John Manly, who represents many of Nassar’s victims, including Raisman, said in a statement.

 

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Slovenian Olympic Snowboarder Advocates to #FreeMeekMill on Live TV

After getting support from the Philadelphia Eagles during the Super Bowl, another athlete is advocating for the release of the incarcerated rapper.

Slovenian Olympic snowboarder Tit Stante showed support for Meek by writing #FreeMeekMill on his snowboard during the men’s halfpipe qualifiers at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Jordan Greenway is U.S. hockey team’s first African-American Olympian

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Jordan Greenway doesn’t know when this historic moment will hit him.

He predicts it won’t happen while he’s helping Team USA try to win a gold medal in Pyeongchang. But sometime down the road it will have more of an impact.

Greenway, a junior winger for Boston University, is the first African-American to compete for the U.S. men’s hockey team in the Olympics.

“I think it’s great, it’s unbelievable,” Greenway said following a practice at Gangneung Ice Arena. “I don’t think it’s hit me how I think it will later on in my life to be honest with you. I grew up around a predominantly white population and a lot of white people playing (hockey), so I’ve always looked at it as just another kid. I think it’s an honor. I’m very excited about it. I hope I’m the first of many.”

Greenway, 20, has played hockey all his life. He put on his first pair of skates when he was 3. It’s what kids are accustomed to growing up in Canton, N.Y., which is 20 miles from the Canadian border. Plus his brother J.D., who is a sophomore defenseman at Wisconsin, and all of his cousins played. He was just next in the family line. Greenway tried out other sports — football, lacrosse, baseball — but didn’t develop the same passion.

“I was OK at them,” he said, laughing. “I kind of mixed it up, but I don’t know. I always had the most fun playing hockey. I enjoyed waking up really early in the morning and playing hockey. I didn’t have the same enjoyment going to (play other sports). I didn’t want to do that for football or other sports. Just thought this was the right fit for me.”

Greenway was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in 2015, but chose to stay in school. Because the NHL prohibited its players from Olympic competition, he’s able to live out his dream as an amateur.

Physically, he’s a big body on the ice at 6-5, 230 flat-footed. Greenway estimates he’s 6-8 or 6-9 on skates, but such an imposing figure could fudge his numbers and say he’s 7-feet and no one would blink.

His height certainly provides an advantage when getting to the net, protecting the puck and creating space, but it’s not always better to be bigger, he said.

“You get some of these smaller guys who are quick and they put you on edge,” he said, smiling. “But it definitely has a lot of benefits.”

Greenway tallied 25 points in 28 games for Boston U. this season and was second with eight points on the U.S. team that won gold in the 2017 junior world championships. He also played for the 2017 world championship team that finished fifth.

By making history, Greenway hopes to use these Olympics to inspire other African-American kids to play hockey.

“That’s definitely the goal,” he said. “Trying to get more, not just African American, but more cultures playing. I don’t think it’s any secret that more white people play than black people. So hopefully I can try to be another role model to try to put it in these kids’ minds to hopefully try and do something different and hopefully we’ll get more black people and different cultures playing the game.”

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