For the past two years I’ve supported Colin Kaepernick in his efforts to separate himself from a curated football profession with an industry standard experience. But as of late, I’m seeing a run-of- the-mill football player: a person searching for monetary gain while following the rules of someone else’s game (read: Nike’s). I’m seeing a man succumbing to a corporation—a mere object of quantifiable worth, not an agent of social change.
Not only do I see a man who’s falling in line with what Nike wants, but I also see him adopting the collective stance on what it means to be popularly black: branded, bought and sold. The cowboys of the black community would be proud – Ebro, Charlemagne & Lathan, herding the black cattle into a narrow corral, restricting any of the herd from grazing outside the range of our unappointed black cowboys.
When people interact with the black athlete, they want the “BAE”: The Black Athlete Experience. They want the product that they saw on TV and bought tickets to see. If what they receive is anything other than precisely that automaton—the musclebound, warrior, hero, sacrificial athlete that was expected—then disappointment ensues, and all hell breaks loose. Black culture is a commodity, and the way we interact with it is purely transactional.
Kaep—you are the object. The current transaction. And in a country where we idolize objects that represent our value and worth, BEING THE OBJECT is the ultimate role one could play in society. Why wouldn’t you want to integrate with accepted, commercial, American culture, embedded in what we understand to be the rightful social fabric of our time? We celebrate objects. That’s why it never feels wrong to be one…But being the object, is precisely the problem.
You and the rest of us athletes are so accustomed to being on rosters that we can’t actually fathom being owners ourselves, slaves to the masters of our own potentials. What would it mean to create our own rosters for a change, instead of putting ourselves in the hands of corporations who see dollar signs when they assess our mass appeal—as objects?
I love Kanye because he has attempted to step outside of this objectified culture, jumping over the fence to graze outside the fenced off limitations of the black community. The cowboys got him quick, using their cattle prod hashtags to demonize the energy behind his misuse of the word slavery.
But most of us are better at being obedient than becoming leaders. It’s easy to adhere to an existing ideological framework. It’s been in motion and guarantees a particular outcome. We don’t idolize ideas, we don’t idolize intelligence, and we don’t idolize intelligent ideas that radicalize our thoughts. We idolize things that we attach long-engrained values to. We actively fight anything that tests these values, and we curate our worlds to satisfy our views. We actually force people to share them. And if they don’t, we tune them out; we don’t watch that channel, or we block them on social media. We are quick to eliminate anything that doesn’t align with ourbeliefs. Given this tendency, how could someone who keeps himself within those confines, someone who participates in the objectified black culture and allows himself to be pirouetted for a company’s financial gain—incite any real change?
Kaep—are you dizzy yet?
Being an object in your reality, as opposed to the subject of your reality, leaves you more vulnerable to being treated like a commodity. A means for economic exchange. This objectification is exactly what I’ve been resisting since leaving the game.
When I decided to leave Football and give energy to new, emerging passions, cannabis was a clear choice for me. What I quickly noticed in all my meetings with potential partners was that these new relationships all desired the same person who I’d been my previous 17 years of playing football…Another nigga on another roster. Big, tall, ethnic, athletic, with accolades, statistics, injuries—with an assumed social status, a clear-cut association with the larger entities of sport, and the inability to articulate. PERFECT. Athletes, especially football players, are the perfect roster filler: soldiers who represent all of the qualities you desire to make your Ponzi scheme credible while possessing the inability to articulate their experiences, therefore, eliminating the possibility of dissent. To quote an acquaintance and Hollywood producer, “You guys (football players) are the perfect workers. You’re easier to deal with than the creative types who show up late and have something to say.”
What I realized from my time spent in the wilderness outside the bubble of football was that a lot of companies, whether Hollywood productions or cannabis companies, just wanted my demographic on their roster to serve their capitalistic initiatives – no different than the teams I’d previously played for. It makes perfect sense to a retiring athlete to replicate the molding of his previous 17-year career. Actually, it wouldn’t even occur to him that he’s repeating his prior system—swapping one environment and role for near-identical ones. A subconscious familiarity, we marry more than just our Mothers.
An easy reapplication of an unchanging self – this is all supposed to make sense to an individual like myself, devoid of purpose in the post-career apocalyptic chaos that is waking up to no alarm. But I was in search of something different. That was the whole reason I left football in the first place. I was tired of being an expensive cardboard cutout whose FLAT, one-dimensional frame soaked up all the benefits of not having my own initiatives, my own voice, my own mind. I wanted to be a real boy. I watched my nose grow and witnessed an allergic reaction to the invitation back to the roster where my demographics did the work for me. Where nothing was asked of me except to show up in a collared shirt and jive.
I’ve witnessed numerous former teammates unwittingly jump into pharmaceutical sales, medical device sales and eventually, myself – being lured into the emerging industry of cannabis. What could be better for a cannabis company looking to legitimize itself like Gatorade, helping replenish people’s lost nutrients? “Hi, I’m an athlete here to give you the physical representation of you, of what you could be if you buy our product.” An inherited physique and a narrated experience by the corporation perched on our polos, underneath our collars. Show up here, sit there, look pretty and repeat. As trendy as it is for our current society to scream at the objectification of women, we could equally scream at the objectification of black men (only the ones with muscle, jumping ability, dance moves and big dicks). This reinforced and monetized objectification only further calcifies the inability to expose identify and utilize one’s mind…continuing the relegation of the athlete to a piece of currency, more valuable than existing as an autonomous being (the difference between Cardi B & Lauryn Hill. Cinnamon Toast Crunch & grass-fed steak).
This is all great, being on a roster, if you don’t desire change.
It’s great if you are in search of familiarity and the stagnation of your soul. But if you want something different and can recognize that, the extension of a new roster’s hand stinks of sulfuric glue, brined in the fiery pits of hell.
“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” The quote that set the world (our phones) ablaze. Ha. It was literally a fucking meme. A (seemingly socialist) meme—not a movement. How was that meme any different than what you’ve scrolled past all day as you chuckle and swipe – not a single neuron firing in your brain? Oh, I know how, it had a logo. The most recognizable logo in the world, the Nike swoosh. It’s more recognizable to most citizens than their countries’ flags. And it took no more than a meme to set everyone off on their own ideological rampages—reposting with clapping hands emojis or cutting off Nike logos without thinking the quote through. Its simplicity was astonishingly powerful; like most things that affect large bodies of people, it had to be.
But simplicity is only empowering if it gets people through the doorway of complexity, leading them to bigger, larger, thought shifting ideas. If your thoughts were reinforced by that meme, it’s doing its job – AS A MEME. That’s all a meme does, and that’s about the extent of its complexity. All this meme did for our collective body (or our Insta-feeds) was pour more capitalistic kerosene for our wicks to soak up our drunken dogmatic dispositions. What I’m waiting for—rather, striving for—is someone to recognize what I want to see: a removal of our wicks, drying them of our old fuel source, and soak them in a new liquid energy source. Revolution in the form of articulated thoughts and economic change.
CK poses as an agent of change – but an agent of change must do more than reinforce your thoughts – he must extend them, challenge them and morph them – an agent of chaos.
But how? How do we make that happen? What is the spark that starts the fire of the change you all cry for and claim that CK represents? You do what I did when I was approached by Cannabis companies. You ask, “how are you going to bend for my initiatives? How are you going to help make actual change instead of reinforcing your status quo? Are you willing to be something other than a corporation for my campaign? Are you willing to be a tribe of humans instead of a faceless conglomerate? If not, fuck off. I’ll die before I become someone’s cardboard cutout again, even if I’m sacrificing people seeing my face.”
Is this YOUR MESSAGE, CK? Was this your interaction with Nike?
If you want to stand for more than change and actually be it, GET OFF NIKE’S ROSTER AND PUT THEM ON YOURS. If you were really about change, you’d take Nike’s power and use it for your initiatives (…if you have any except the continuation of the subjective platform of racism—a prejudice that looks different from every angle, and from everyone’s point of view). You wouldn’t allow them to continually suck your power, and the rest of black athletes’ power from around the world. But how do we enact change?
“Nike, I will sign on this dotted line only if you agree to my terms…I want you to revoke all usage of Nike products from the NFL and all of its employees and players as long as my contract with you lasts or until I sign a deal with an NFL team.” That’s what a revolution sounds like. That’s real change. You have been attacking the wrong thing, racism. Who’s responsible for it? Who manufactures it? Licenses it? Who produces the raw materials for it? Where does its slave labor reside? Maybe we should ask Nike?
I’m not sure if you, or any other football player, (or the millions of citizens who revere us) understands or knows how to do this though. What does “Power to the People” look like in a modern-day capitalistic landscape? It means making large corporations do what the people want and (unknowingly) need, not what the corporations want and need from the people.
All too often we applaud progress that’s been defined and dictated by the markets that govern our desires. You may ask, how do these large corporations do this “brainwashing?” I’ll tell you: SPONSORED MEMES. Take that same photo, that same logo, the same lighting in the same editing studio with the same overpaid photo editor and change the words to – “No Change, No Nike. No Nike, No Change. Somethings gotta give.” Shift Nike’s immense multi-billion-dollar power in a new direction, away from their profit margin and into an agent of change — an agent of chaos. When will we give power to people with new ideas, not new marketing strategies?
When you begin to realize all of our real life heroes are fed to us by corporations, a new generation’s addiction to video games begins to make sense – I wants to go somewhere else where I feel I have the judicial power to influence operation, not just be an X button on a controller. I want to be the thumb that presses it, the wrist that shifts it, the mind that decides to turn the game on or off.
Kaep—once again, is just an X button to press upon, having no influence on the outcome of this video game. You are unknowingly operating as Username #7 across platforms. And Nike has its big thumb on your dollar sign face.
All images courtesy of google images