An open letter to State Senator Bo Watson:
You’ve asked the Office of Legislative Budget Analysis to review Tennessee’s state-financed colleges and universities with Nike contracts. You did this on behalf of constituents who are upset about the Nike ad which includes Colin Kaepernick, the first professional athlete to take a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustices to African-American citizens.
We don’t agree on many issues but I’m willing to bet we agree on the power of the free marketplace. I’m also willing to bet we agree you were not elected to the State Senate to soothe the feelings of a subset of your constituents.
You don’t want Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes to use peaceful means to protest social injustices. Well I don’t want you and other members of the Tennessee legislature to use the legislative process to force your beliefs on me.
If you aren’t happy with the University of Tennessee’s decision to use Nike equipment I suggest you protest the UT football program by not using the free tickets you receive. Just mail those tickets to your anti-Nike constituents. I’m willing to bet they’ll use them. Just do it.
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Senator Watson was not elected to ‘soothe the feelings of a subset’ of his constituents, but to represent and enact the political will of his constituents and, in his role as chairman of the Finance committee, to allocate the resources of the people (i.e. taxes) and engage in oversight of how those resources are being used.
Nike has the right to use anyone they want for their marketing campaigns, but they do not have the right to a contract with the State of Tennessee. Contracts are always subject to review, negotiation, and/or (depending on the conditions) termination.
I, too, agree with the ‘power of the free marketplace.’ Perhaps Adidas, Reebok, Puma, FILA, Converse, Under Armor, or Asics would like to submit a contract to our elected representatives for their consideration.
I, too, do not want beliefs forced on me - though I recognize in a constitutional republic there will be times when my elected officials will make decisions I disagree with and ‘force their beliefs on me.’ The only solutions to that are a hermetic lifestyle or anarchy.
Senator Watson is exercising his legitimate authority to ask questions about and perform oversight of the financial decisions of the state, which include contracts with non-governmental organizations.
In this case, the organization in question has chosen to highlight a spokesperson who disrespects and condemns the very country that enabled him to get a scholarship for college, play a professional sport for his living (to the tune of millions of dollars), and now to make $30 million for an ad campaign based off political activism and a 28-30 win/loss record.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Nike initiated the action, and Senator Watson - addressing the desire of many constituents - initiated the reaction.
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Colin Kaepernick has been protesting police brutality and institutionalized racism. Nike, agreeing that police brutality and institutionalized racism. are bad has supported him by using him in an ad campaign.
Now there are reports that you are calling for a review of any contracts the state institutions have with Nike, apparently disagreeing with Nike and Kaepernick. Does that mean you support police brutality and institutionalized racism?
John L. Odom
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I would not presume to know everything about Mr. Kaepernick and his motives and actions (or lack there of). I have read that he personally donated a million dollars of his own money to social issues.
I have spent time looking at many sports statistics sites that reviewed his performance on the football field. Most every one of them hold the opinion that his athletic value had dropped to that of a third string quarterback. Add that to the fact that all team sports struggle to prevent personnel issues from taking the focus away from the game. These are the reasons he is out of a job and has no prospect of playing football again.
He did benefit from the remainder of his contract earnings when he left football and now he maintains a lucrative advertising deal with Nike.
I know that the operations manual (dictates all the aspects of game day and making sure that the field crews and NFL teams are adhering to certain responsibilities) is totally different from the NFL rule book for teams and players. There is a detailed suggestion about players conduct and observation of the national anthem ceremony but no actual “player rules” for that ceremony.
Here is my problem with the situation. No one in this war has addressed serious problems within the black community itself. Absence of fathers in black families, black on black murders, and the dependence of young black men on gangs for male leadership. On top of these issues there need to be changes in judicial processes and guidelines for incarceration. Prisons are often training camps for more dangerous gang involvement and learning how to commit crimes.
I’m always bothered by people who protest but fail to come forward with logical, well thought out plans to change what is wrong and target communication as a top priority in their concerns. The President has been highly critical of the protests but is also on video asking for sit down meetings to address the issues. He has offered communication and the opportunity to work to resolve the players claims and concerns (insert sound of crickets here).
Another aspect that baffles me is why the combined millions of the players is not used to produce professional television spots—short and hard hitting informercials similar to those used in public service announcements. Recently I have become aware of millions that the NFL has “donated” toward various programs in response to the players association. There are reports of $50 million being dumped into a player activist organization alone. That scenario seems to be a lucrative payoff to end the war between players and the NFL.
No one knows at this point how this all will end, but step one in my opinion would be for everyone to get off their knees and apply some shoe leather and meaningful action towards the problems. Protest without subsequent actions to resolve problems is just hot air. It is worthless in the long run. It reminds me of the worst political rhetoric.
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Mr. Ladd does make some good points. However, police brutality and what the protests are fundamentally about, are not the results of what he sees as coming across as caused by what he feels is lacking in the black community. It's not their fault that police officers, predominantly Caucasian police officers, are using more in-depth, severe, and mostly unnecessary force, brutality, and death in exponentially more instances than when other races and ethnicities are pulled over, stopped, or detained. It's like blaming the victim when they're raped. It's archaic and not the point at all.
If you want people to bring solutions to the table, make sure that the correct problem is the one everyone is there to discuss.
Plus, Kaepernick has had his Nike deal since 2011. It's not new.
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Where were you when the legislative process was forced on you? Please call me the next time you feel the force coming on. I will help you locate a safe space to lace up your high tops and take A Knee. If you like, we can also search for a place to take Two Knees. A football coach was fired for taking two knees, so we will need to be more stealthy and diligent to find a two knee location. Just let me know when you want to do it.
If Nike stock plummets every Friday, does that mean only racists sell Nike stock on Friday? It's not a logical proposition is it? Sadly, manufacturing or promoting causal relationships, in the absence of evidence is how fake news is made.
Are we all being played? Is kneeling getting the job done for justice?
If Nike's CEO and Board had to choose between selling millions of shoes or solving world peace, which they would pick?
Has the social justice situation improved as a result of anyone taking a knee during the national anthem?
What is the best way to persuade more Americans to embrace social justice for the new cause? Must one group systematically disrespect one symbolic gesture of reverence for to draw personal attention to a new cause? Standing for the anthem shows respect for those who fought and died to make a historical sacrifice for social justice. Kneeling is gesture most associated with prayer. It's too easily confused with praying at football games. How can academic institutions fire the right people when some kneel for protest and some kneel to pray?
Do complainers want justice or is the actual goal personal amusement and cultivation of the adoration of their current social circle? Too many people seem to enjoy remaining in a constant gesture stage. It's easy and very me, me, me focused.
If you want positive change, move past the "look at me" phase. Do more than complain, disrupt and obstruct. Let's get together and talk about some practical solutions. Let's working together to honor those who died to keep the flag waving long ago and for those who need justice now.
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Thank you Annie Hall for your thoughtful opinion piece. I agree with you 100 percent. Bo Watson needs to find something better to do in his job than to single out our state universities who might have contracts with Nike simply because he disagrees with Nike's advertising campaign. It's childish, reactionary and politically motivated and a complete waste of a paid representative's time and energy.
And to Ted Ladd, please tell me one thing that President Trump has done to address issues of police brutality or the social injustices that Colin Kaepernick has so successfully positioned at the forefront of the agenda. That's right, he has done nothing - other than publicly say that he would meet with players to find out who he can pardon, a mocking solution to the problem at hand.
Rather, Trump has used his pulpit to incite discord and violence and to say that there are some good people who are white supremacists. And, while he claims to be so patriotic, let's not forget that Trump dismissed the bravery of John McCain, a true American Hero, by saying he wasn't a hero because he got caught. On the other hand, Kaepernick has donated over $1 million of his money (and he's been out of a job for a while) to social causes. His contract with Nike requires the company to donate to his foundation that educates young people on how to interact with the police. He started a campaign to sell jerseys where 20 percent of the proceeds goes to charity.
When you can find anything indicating that Trump has even attempted to address the issues to that extent, you will shock us all because Trump has done nothing. I was no fan of Kaepernick as a football player, and I don't know whether I would join him in kneeling for the National Anthem, but I certainly don't think he is any less patriotic than you or me for doing so. In fact, in risking everything he had for a cause, I'd say he is probably more patriotic than most.
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If anyone is going to exploit the military and those who serve and have served in an effort to stifle dissent, accusing dissenters of disrespecting the military and veterans, just remember the military veterans and their families who have been impacted and victimized by police killings, excessive use of force, assaults and harassment too. I speak from personal experience.
The shame is many police are former and present military themselves.