The calculated decision by Nike to use former quarterback Colin Kaepernick to promote its product sparked predictable outrage, which I’d wager is exactly what the company was hoping would happen.
The news broke the internet.
Social media exploded with promises from the offended masses to burn their Nike apparel in protest — ironic, since the flap started a couple of years ago when Kaepernick decided the First Amendment gave him the right to kneel during the national anthem in, well, protest.
Anyway, unless you purchase your Nike gear off the discount rack or wait for sales, this stuff can get expensive. But for many, the anger toward the company and its new face is real, so what to do?
Titus O’Neil has a better idea.
Donate the gear you no longer want to Tampa’s Metropolitan Ministries, because somebody out there really needs shirts and shoes and it would be an incredible waste to burn something you’ve already paid for.
"My whole thing is that our country is one of the most wasteful on Earth with our resources," O’Neil said. "To me, coming from my background, I remember when buying a pair of shoes wasn’t a luxury – it was a necessity, because we didn’t money.
"This isn’t political on my part. But if you want to show your outrage, let it help someone else."
You may know O’Neil from his day job in World Wrestling Entertainment, but he also is someone who has made an enormous impact outside the ring to help those who need it most in our town. Just last month, he joined with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Florida Hospital to distribute 15,000 school backpacks loaded with supplies to needy families.
It’s in keeping with his nature to lend his name to this latest effort to stop the waste of perfectly usable Nike apparel.
"It was really just a call to action," he said. "If you don’t want the shoes, don’t waste them. Give them to somebody who needs them."
You might be surprised how great that need can be, and not just here.
A friend of mine last summer traveled to Kenya with a group on a missionary trip. They took medical supplies, clothing and so on — including several hundred pairs of shoes.
As they traveled to remote villages to see how they could help, the shoes were the first thing people wanted. They ran out in just a couple of days.
So, yeah, if you decide you’re done with Nike, don’t detonate.
The good people at Metropolitan Ministries will be glad to help, but don’t overlook other charitable outlets like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or your local church.
"You know, those shoes might go to a kid who wants to play basketball and needs them," O’Neil said. "Or they might go a someone who gets bullied at school because they have holes in their shoes."
As I mentioned up top, I think Nike executives are concealing grins over the backlash because they know that it will likely trigger an equal, opposite reaction by those who support Kaepernick — most likely younger people who see themselves as rebels against the machine.
Nike probably just ensured itself brand loyalty from a new generation, much like it did all those years ago when it signed Michael Jordan and suddenly kids all over the country were showing up in Air Jordan shoes at $200 a pop on neighborhood outdoor basketball courts.
If signing Kaepernick means older folks will howl in protest, well, any publicity is good publicity as long as they spell N-I-K-E correctly.
The bigger picture here, though, isn’t about a company worth a reported $28 billion. It’s about kids and families in need.
You want to boycott Nike? Fine.
Just don’t boycott the kids to make your point.