Believe in Something


Photo by Raven Nava

Author Hannah Rose kneels in front of an American flag. She does so in support of Kaepernick's protest, not to disrespect the flag or the Soldiers that fight for the freedom it represents.

   The pinnacle of a successfully lived life is often perceived as having at least one thing important enough to risk everything. This object or idea may not always be popular opinion, but if it means enough to the person who hold it dear to their heart, that will not matter.

   “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” This phrase, displayed in Nike’s new ad, has been sweeping the nation and causing an uproar. The reason for the controversy is not the phrase itself, but the man behind it. Since 2016, Colin Kaepernick has inspired a constant debate, brought about by his decision to kneel during the national anthem when he was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

   Ever since Kaepernick began his protest to gain awareness about the way people of color in America are still being oppressed in today’s society, there have been a great deal of people who see his kneeling as a sign of disrespect. The way many people who oppose his protest see it is that by him not standing for the flag, he is showing that he does not support the American flag (and therefore those in the military who fight for the freedom it represents). However, Kaepernick has made it clear what the true reason for his protest is.

   “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said after he began his protest in 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

   Nevertheless, many still viewed the way Kaepernick protested as disrespectful. Since his protest began with him sitting through the Star Spangled Banner, and Kaepernick did not want to offend the military, he began to look into a way to protest in a more respectful manner. So, after speaking with Nate Boyer, former Seahawk and Green Beret, Kaepernick modified his form of protesting to taking a knee as a sign of respect. Kaepernick changed the way he protested so that he could respect the flag and the military while still getting his point across about the need for a change in the way minorities are treated. In modern society, kneeling is seen as a form of respect. Boyer recognized this as he explained why he told Kaepernick to kneel.

   “We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer says. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security.”

   Kneeling is not only a sign of respect in the military. In sports, players (and even cheerleaders) take a knee when another player is injured, and people take a knee to pray, propose for marriage, and at the feet of royalty. Kneeling is seen by most of society as a sign of respect and reverence. Even local University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, former coach to Kaepernick when he played for the San Francisco 49ers , endorsed Kaepernick.

   “When you really stop and listen and know where Colin is coming from … he’s trying to do this for his future kids, for my kids, for all of our kids,” Harbaugh said according to Sports Illustrated. “He’s a special person and a hero, in my opinion.”

   Not only is kneeling clearly a sign for respect, but there are countless ways that Americans in an uproar about kneeling may inadvertently be disrespectful to the flag themselves. That is, while those who consider kneeling to be disrespectful, there are many other ways that Americans often engage in disrespectful behavior regarding the flag on a daily basis. According to the U.S. Flag Code, it is disrespectful to the flag for it to be carried horizontally, like it is before some football games. It is also stated that “the flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.” Yet the moment summer hits,  many Americans wear flag bikinis and suits galore, as well as citizens using actual  US flags as capes on the Fourth of July. Also, the Flag Code clearly states that the flag should not be used as advertisement and “it should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.” However, the Fourth of July is filled with flag colored party plates and items, and companies cover their entire product with the flag, like Budweiser does with its disposable beer cans. I am not saying that the people who do these things are disrespecting the flag on purpose or endorsing any form of disrespect, but before these people condemn those like Kaepernick for not standing, they might consider how they themselves may be accidentally disrespecting the flag.

  Interestingly,  nothing to do with standing for the flag is listed in the section of the U.S. Flag Code under the section of disrespect Standing is mentioned under proper conduct and states “all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.” In this section of the code, it clearly states that citizens merely SHOULD stand, not that they must or that it is disrespectful

   Kaepernick has been a free agent since 2017, but that has not stopped his protests. After signing with Nike, Kaepernick became one of the many faces of Nike’s new ad. Kaepernick’s line, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” and his appearance in general, sparked outlash. Those who do not support Kaepernick’s cause or protest began cutting off the Nike symbol and burning their Nike apparel in their own protest – a protest that did not affect Nike’s revenue  in the slightest. Many assumed that Nike’s bold ad would blow up in their face.

   “Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN,” Trump tweeted Sept. 5. “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way?”

   Despite the President’s and other’s assumptions, Nike is doing better than ever. As a matter of fact, Nike reached an all time high in their stock, closing at $85.55 on Sept 21, according to  

   If anything, Nike’s ad should be seen as inspirational, as should Kaepernick’s never wavering feelings toward what he believes in and kneels for.