Roy Exum: Nike ‘Just Did It’

Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I was talking college football with a fun Florida radio crowd last Thursday before the weekend’s start of the season and between the jokes and one-liners, what was promised to be a 10-minute spot went on for over an hour. “Ya’ll know Tennessee’s offensive line hasn’t practiced together for more than 10 times …” I said, and that got ‘em going and when I asked, “How long you reckon it’s gonna’ take for (vaunted Alabama quarterback) Jalen Hurts to join Jeremy Pruitt in Knoxville?” Well, that lit up the switchboard (which is the main idea.)

Anyway, we continued to laugh and have a big time when one asked, “Yo, Ex, which two teams you think will make it to the Super Bowl?” and without fanfare or explanation I answered, “You know, I don’t do the NFL anymore … I’m the wrong guy to ask …”

After a pregnant pause, no other comment about the NFL was made – this in Tampa where the radio call-in was originated. The reason: everybody knows that when Colin Kaepernick kneeled, he took pro football right down with him. One report claimed the NFL lost $500 million because of the players’ national anthem smear last year. In an effort to restore calm, ESPN says it will not televise the national anthem but that’s no longer part of the conversation after Nike sprung its perfectly-timed “Just Do It” bombshell yesterday.

Tomorrow night the National Football League season will start its 99th season when the Atlanta Falcons (0-4 in exhibition) will play Philadelphia (1-3 exhibition). But the “real season” opened Monday when the sports apparel giant, Nike, made Kaepernick the face of its new “Just Do It” campaign. A huge outcry arose, the universal line becoming, “Nike Just Did It!” and, brother, the NFL with its rejuvenated hysteria is once again off to the races.

Suddenly people all over the country are burning their Nike shoes, stock fell more than three points, the police unions are livid because Kaepernick is a known cop-hater and doesn’t care much for the white race either. Two years ago he led the players in kneeling during the national anthem at stadiums across the country to showcase racial disparities and pundits are already wondering if they’ll be the trademark swoosh on Colin’s cops-are-pigs socks.

As for me, I don’t care. I am over the NFL. Yes, I was mortified when the movement to kneel during our national anthem began. It is clearly disrespectful of the United States, an obvious racial ruse, and when the NFL owners did nothing, that is when I did something – changed the channel.

When Peyton Manning retired, it was a huge loss for the NFL because they are easily half-a-load shy of players you would want your son to emulate. Over 80 active NFL players, by one count, are actual felons, this out of more than 1,700 on teams right now. So far this year, there have been 40 NFL players arrested, versus just five Major League Baseball players. But more than that, I get tired of the show-boating, the look-at-me, that is so wonderfully missing from college football which I still adore.

For what it’s worth, I still adore Nike, too. I remember when it first got going in Oregon, back when the great Oregon track coach, Bill Bowerman, made the famous waffle soles on an actual waffle iron in a guy’s kitchen. He and Phil Knight started the company from nothing in the mid-60s and today its worth around $30 billion (with a “b”). I know that once it got going, really strong, Coach Bowerman began making custom shoes but only for kids with misshapen feet … all at no charge. I love that.

I knew a bunch of the early Nike reps who worked the South and I dig Phil Knight’s moxie so, no, I’m past boycotting anything. If I boycotted every company that had a flaw in my judgment my personal loss would be great … don’t worry, the sands of time have polished many a stone. And when the Democratic Party just boycotted In-and-Out burgers, they became the laughing stock of modern-day politics because the chain had record sales. Additionally, there were four, and counting, states where Republican leaders stepped up, begging In-and-Out to open franchises within their state lines.  Elementary, my dear Watson!

From what I can read, the Kaepernick-Nike campaign was a tremendous victory for both but Clay Travis, the great sports guru, writes from Nashville: “This morning the stock market punished the company for alienating many of its core consumers, dropping Nike’s stock by over $3 a share and shaving over $4.5 billion off the company’s market cap.

“I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, but I do buy sneakers (and apparel) not just for myself but also, more importantly, for my three growing boys. Given Nike’s decision to pay millions of dollars to Colin Kaepernick, I will not spend a dollar on Nike products,” he wrote on his delightful website, ‘Outkick the Coverage.’ “Will Nike be fine without my hundreds of dollars in shoes and apparel purchases? Certainly. Are there some people who will buy more Nike shoes and apparel because of the Kaepernick deal? Certainly.

“But is this decision likely to cost Nike much more than it gains the company? I believe so. In fact, I think this is likely to be the single most disastrous marketing decision in the history of sports. I think it will end up costing Nike billions of dollars in sales,” Travis believes.

Me? I can’t believe that Nike, with a uniform contract that will last through 2028 with the NFL, threw a rock at a hornet’s nest. Colin Kaepernick is very divisive and – for no palatable reason – Nike picks a fight where there will be no winner.

So, brother, cut this in your granite: Nike Just Did It.

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