These Nikes on My Feet

These Nikes on My Feet September 5, 2018

I never gave them a second thought when I bought these shoes. It didn’t really matter what brand they were. I was more interested in things like comfort, look, and value. The fact that they are Nikes just meant that these shoes stood out as the best deal for me on the day that I bought them. Now they mean something more–something much more.

Now, the fact that my Nikes are still intact and on my feet instead of in an ash heap in my back yard means that I have chosen to use my shoes to make a stand. Just as many people far to the right of me on the political spectrum have chosen to use their Nikes to take a different kind of stand. Who knew that something as simple as a pair of sneakers would end up meaning so much?

But this is America now.

Since Nike took the bold step of featuring Colin Kaepernick in a new ad campaign, many conservatives, including some of my conservative Christian friends, have taken to social media to slam the sportswear giant. Some have gone so far as to burn their Nike gear in a form of protest.

As a Christian, albeit a more progressive one, it saddens me to see these kinds of protests coming from the right. It’s not because I don’t support their right to protest, on the contrary, if they feel strongly about something, it’s their right as an American to protest as they see fit, so long as they do so peacefully. What makes me sad is the fact that, as one further to the left, I can see the message that this particular protest sends and it’s not a pretty one. I wonder if they understand that. I don’t think they do.

A good friend of mine shared his thoughts on this matter on Facebook yesterday and I thought he touched on a very important concept.

My friend hit the nail on the head here. The people doing this counter-protest against the whole Colin Kaepernick/Black Lives Matter movement have placed nationalistic patriotism before empathy and love. I do not see any other way of looking at it. In destroying their own property, as my friend points out, these conservatives (who no doubt think they are being fine Americans) are revealing their lack of empathy and understanding in a very tangible way. These Nike burners, in destroying their hard earned merchandise, are doing exactly the same thing–on a smaller scale–that we have seen in riot torn areas following the very police shootings that caused the BLM movement in the first place.

My question to my conservative Christian friends is this; do you know what your Nike protest looks like to the majority of America and the world? I’m going to tell you what it looks like, but you aren’t going to like it…here goes. At best, it makes you look like you are a Nationalist first. That’s not good. At worst, it makes you look callous and bigoted. That’s even worse.

Let me first submit this: If you are protesting the NFL, ESPN, Nike, or anything else caught up in the orbit around the National Anthem protests, you simply either don’t understand what you are protesting or don’t care to. You think you are protesting against a bunch of rich, spoiled young athletes who are disrespecting the American flag and the military. In thinking that, you have completely ignored what the athletes themselves have said they are doing. First of all, kneeling solemnly with head bowed isn’t disrespectful, in fact, it’s just the opposite. If those athletes were running around banging on tambourines during the National Anthem, then you could make a strong case that they were being disrespectful. Secondly, the athletes who have protested have stated many times that they are not meaning disrespect to the flag or to the military, but are just using the moment to bring attention to what they think is a great injustice in our nation. We can argue whether that injustice is as bad as they say it is and that would be a fair debate. But that’s not what’s happening here. This has turned into a call for forced symbolic patriotism–you better stand if you know what’s good for you–and that leads down a very scary path.

Secondly, and I think most importantly, your protests show a willful ignorance of the desperate cries of millions of hurting people. As I said before, if you don’t think the injustice that the Black Lives Matter movement is calling attention to is as bad as they say it is, or you are claiming that we aren’t getting the whole story, or if you just want to show your support for cops in general, I certainly get it. But when millions of people say they live a very different reality and they are crying out about how scared they are over it, does it not give you pause? Is it not the most un-Christian thing in the world to ignore those cries and cast them aside as if they didn’t exist? Don’t we at least need to sit down and have a national discussion about this instead of burning perfectly good sneakers and boycotting football leagues and tv networks?

Where is the empathy?

Where is the love?

So, while these Nikes on my feet never meant a whole lot to me before, now things have changed. Now, whenever I put on some Nike sneakers or clothing, I’m going to be reminded of a whole segment of America that I need to find empathy for and a whole other segment of America that seems to have forgotten that.

God Bless America.

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