Nike – Just Did It

For years I have supported the Adidas’ brand. I can tell you how long actually. It began in 1981. That was the year Alison won the Scottish Cross Country title, the UK indoor 1500 meter championship and represented the UK in meets against East Germany, France, Italy and Norway. She also won a major 3000 meters race against the UK 3000 meter champion in Cork, Ireland. And Adidas noticed. The company’s representative told Alison he had seen she usually wore Adidas shoes. Would she like to accept a contract that provided her with free Adidas gear?

Alison agreed. Sadly there was no money involved but from then on, when new shoes or training gear was needed, a phone call to the representative would result in a parcel being delivered to our home address. The whole thing worked extremely well until Alison retired from competitive running. As a sign of our support I began buying Adidas. So that’s thirty-seven years of wearing their brand.

But yesterday I changed loyalties. I became a Nike fan. Because yesterday Nike announced their most recent “Just Do It” campaign with the news that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was going to be the face of the promotion. The first advertisement featured Kaepernick’s face with the words across the picture saying, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Why do I admire that enough to put aside my Adidas loyalty? Well, first of all, the slogan – Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. What a great thought. In my trip through sport I’ve come across a hundred gutless wonders who either don’t believe in anything or are too afraid to sacrifice anything in the name of a good cause.

Take the author of the NZ Swim Facebook page, Dave Crampton. He sent me a dozen emails or messages containing harsh criticism of Swimming Wellington and Swimming New Zealand. He encouraged me to write stories that parroted his opinions. He wanted to then approve the stories before they were posted on Swimwatch. He was the tough guy when he thought his comments were between him and me. But when I published a story with a selection of his more volatile emails he fell apart. I got eight phone calls the night the story came out. I didn’t answer any of them because I knew all I would hear was a plea to take the story down. In my opinion if it was good enough for Crampton to write the emails it was good enough for those he wrote about to read them.

But Crampton is certainly not alone. Brian Palmer talked to me on the phone many, many evenings, sometimes until well past midnight about the sins of Peter Miskimmin. But when faced with the reality of fronting Peter Miskimmin he folded like a pack of cards. The regional delegates at Swimming New Zealand Annual Meetings know the organisation is being badly run but lack the courage to tell Cotterill to sling his hook. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told by swimming people that they never read Swimwatch. I know they are lying when they go onto debate something they can only know by reading it in Swimwatch.

Yes, swimming is full of behind the door warriors. But Colin Kaepernick is not one of those. He had concerns about police violence against African-Americans. He resolved to protest by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. A huge number of Americans, including Trump, hated him for it. He lost his job as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He lost his reputation and many millions of dollars. But he never wavered. He stood firm.

And so did another American, Senator John McCain. The courage he showed to vote down Trump’s attempt to repeal Obama care showed a similar rebellious character. Both men couldn’t be more different; couldn’t be more the same. And that deserves all of our respect.

But so does Nike. In spite of the hatred being poured all over Kaepernick by the most powerful forces in the United States, Nike saw a man of courage and principle. Ignoring the huge risks involved Nike decided he would be the 2018 face of their business. And they paid a huge price for backing their beliefs. Almost four billion US dollars was wiped off the Stock Exchange value of the company’s shares. Pictures appeared all over the internet of right-wing bigots burning their Nike shoes. Like Kaepernick, Nike did not fold. The share price has since recovered. The majority of Americans did the right thing and supported a just cause – just as the majority had supported Hillary Clinton.

Out of respect for Kaepernick and admiration for Nike I will support them in the only way I can. I will write this post and I will wear their gear. And I will thank the athlete and the company for providing me with the best example of fighting for a cause. They have lifted my spirits. They have given me steel to continue the fight to reform the disaster that is Swimming New Zealand, its Board and its management.

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