The Current

Nike needs to learn how to 'become more like Kaepernick,' not just profit off him, author says

American author Anand Giridharadas says Nike should take cues from former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

'I want them to actually sit at Kaepernick's knee and learn from him'

Author of Winners Take All, Anand Giridharadas says Nike should take some of its own social justice campaign virtues instead of aligning itself with a 'hero' like Colin Kaepernick for profit. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

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Nike should take cues from former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, not just profit off him, an American author says.

"What would be more important would be for that hero to teach Nike something," said Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.

"I want them to actually sit at Kaepernick's knee and learn from him and become more like him, and actually show the rest of corporate America an ethic where you actually believe in something enough to sacrifice for it," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"If there are companies that are doing that — I don't see them."

The footwear and apparel maker launched an ad campaign featuring Kaepernick, who sparked a national controversy by kneeling during the American anthem.

Gino Fisanotti, Nike's vice-president of brand for North America, told ESPN that Kaepernick is "one the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward."

He added that Nike wanted to "energize its meaning and introduce 'Just Do It' to a new generation of athletes."

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif, Sept. 12, 2016. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Giridharadas​ says he has deep respect for Kaepernick, calling him a "warrior for social change," but feels Nike is co-opting what he represents.

"This corporate elite helpfulness is not only not enough, it's actually sustaining the problem," he said. "What happens when companies like Nike try to get in on social change is they try to water social change down."

How could it actually learn to practice what he preaches?- Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.

Giridharadas noted this embrace by a corporation to align itself with justice isn't a new phenomenon.

"Every corporation in America seems to be trying to get in on the game of changing the world and making it a better place," Giridharadas said, referring to Pepsi's wellness program and Goldman Sachs's social impact bonds aimed at lowering recidivism​.

He reiterated if NIKE wants to take a positive step forward, the company needs to learn how to "actually become more like Kaepernick."

"How could it actually learn to practice what he preaches?" 

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.


Written by Lisa Ayuso with files from CBC News. Produced by Alison Masemann, Julie Crysler and Samira Mohyeddin.

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