Conscious Consumerism

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Chances are, you’ve seen these words plastered over ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s face over the past few weeks. They’ve been in the national spotlight since September 5, when Nike announced Kaepernick as one of the faces of their “Just Do It” 30-year anniversary campaign. Kaepernick sparked national controversy in 2017 when he decided to sit, and later kneel, during the pre-game playing of the national anthem, an act that he said was to protest racially charged police brutality in the United States. Since his 2017 opt-out, Kaepernick has not played a down of NFL football. Officially, this has nothing to do with the protest he sparked, but he holds the position that he has been blacklisted by the league for his role in the protest, which has been carried by other football players, as stated in his ongoing lawsuit against the NFL for collusion. Kaepernick’s actions have made him a controversial figure for Nike to base such a large, public ad campaign on. And nowhere has the backlash been fiercer than online. Many turned to social media to express outrage, some even burning their Nike shoes and apparel on video while calling for a boycott in protest. While this might be the most prevalent or current example of a corporation taking a political stance, it’s emblematic of a growing trend of corporations becoming more publicly involved in politics. Whether we like it or not, our decisions as consumers are becoming more aligned with politics than ever, and not just in obvious ways, as with the “Just Do It” campaign. For example, an analysis of fast food chain Chick-fil-A’s 2010 charitable work revealed nearly 2 million dollars in donations to anti-gay rights groups, though the company has distanced itself from those organizations in recent years. The chain’s C.E.O., Dan Cathy, is also on record in 2012 saying that he supports the “biblical definition of the family unit.” It is clear that in today’s hyper-consumerist national climate, you have to buy from large corporations — corporations whose politics are becoming matters of public knowledge and, at times, public outrage. Some may lament how politics have infiltrated almost every aspect of life. The newly public nature of corporation and company executives’ political beliefs and the groups they fund, however, creates an opportunity for consumers to truly look at a given organization’s politics and see where their money is really going. With this opportunity for more access and visibility than before, we can ensure that we support corporations that stand by causes that we believe in. What we buy may seem completely unrelated to what we believe in, and buying from companies that align with our values can be inconvenient and more expensive, but being conscious consumers, when we are able, allows us to make impacts far greater than the immediate things that we buy. Cynics may say that Nike understood the kind of press coverage their campaign would receive and are simply using his beliefs and the movement that spawned, in large part, from Kaepernick to sell shoes. Frankly, they wouldn’t be wrong. At the end of the day, Nike, like most corporations, is driven by its bottom line, and that’s okay. Regardless of whether or not they knew this would help their sales, they still made the decision to publicly align their name, their image, and their 130-billion-dollar brand with Kaepernick’s message. And to us, that matters. This editorial represents the view of The Phillipian, vol. CXLI.