Nike stole the attention of a nation on Monday, by debuting a 30th-anniversary campaign starring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and original anthem protester Colin Kaepernick.
The announcement heralded him as a hero for subsisting off a suspected eight-digit endorsement deal with one of the world’s largest sporting goods companies.
Kaepernick has made a name for himself protesting what he claims to be systematic injustice by law enforcement against people of color in the United States. The outrage surrounding his endorsement stems largely from his refusal to stand for America’s flag and national anthem at NFL games, as a symbolic gesture that the country is not living out the values the flag is supposed to represent.
This outrage is misplaced because it ignores the reality of Kaepernick’s political ideology, one he revealed rather shamelessly by wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with mass murderer Fidel Castro’s face on it to a press conference in Miami, Florida, home to the largest community of Castro’s victims in the country. Kaepernick refused to disown Castro, instead doubling down on his praise of the dictator when confronted by a journalist member of the Cuban exile community.
In endorsing the rule of Fidel Castro, Kaepernick stood in defense of police brutality, systematic racism against people of color, and the torture and murder of political dissidents, all the ills that he repeatedly claims so urgently tarnish America. In this context, refusing to stand for America’s flag becomes a rejection of the values that Kaepernick claims to represent – and now Nike has rejected those values, too.