Can I just go right there? It’s okay if you disagree with me, it’s an opinion. The Star Spangled Banner is a crappy song. How many times have we watched talented singers anywhere from the Super Bowl to 8-year-old Pop Warner football go a capella and try to knock this ridiculous tune out of the park? That’s a heavy yoke, even if you’re Whitney Houston.  Hopefully there’s a support group for those folks.  They likely suffer in silence. The words make no sense.  There’s no “Oh Canada” glorious refrain. Our song sucks. Canada’s anthem rocks.

We are circling back to this issue this week, and for the record, what I have stated above is my biggest issue with this issue. I am definitely pro-social justice, but I’m also petty enough to admit that I would absolutely be pro-kneeling in protest to a bad melody. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest was the story in the NFL in 2016 (and still is, some would argue) yet he hasn’t played since. “Kap’s” protest, you’ll remember, was in reference to the injustice of law enforcement brutality against minorities. Millions of us weighed in on social media about it. The president weighed in. The net result for Kap? He has been blackballed (some would say colluded against) by the NFL. They won’t let him play.

In, uh, swoops Nike. The ad below dropped this week, in correspondence with Nike’s fresh repackage of the “Just Do It” campaign. Kap is the narrator, and the focal point here. He is a good football player. (It would have been nice to see a few of his Super Bowl highlights in the ad, so I’m left wondering about the aptitude of another marketing department). Kap is also a good narrator here. As I was watching it, though, I couldn’t help but think back on Matt Schneider’s excellent Mockingbird post earlier this week. The original Nike “Just Do It” ads centered on mostly just doing it between the lines, on the athletic field. And those ads really worked. Anyone who remotely considers themselves a sports fan could appreciate those ads – that’s how we like to envision our favorite players and teams working. This ad though, is about “just doing it” not only between the in-bound lines, but outside the lines – in life, everywhere. The command is for best-ever dominance in all facets and dimensions of life.

It’s also a really good commercial.

By the time this commercial got to Serena Williams (my favorite athlete of all time), even I was conjuring up some new crazy-ass dreams.  However, my wife told me that, while that’s all very inspiring, at my age, it would just mean that she would need to make more trips to CVS for my blood pressure meds. Fair point.

Another point worth considering: regardless of what anyone might say about the merit of Colin Kaepernick’s protest, zero NFL teams want to deal with the “baggage” that he has come to signify. Zero owners are willing to put ideology aside and give the guy a chance on football talent alone. The guy made some missteps–the cop/pig socks and the Castro t-shirt were definitely poor gambles in the realm of NFL fans–but he also took a knee to injustice (as he understands it) at the expense of his career. We may not call that a “sacrifice” as we understand sacrifices, but it was certainly a price.

Price vs. sacrifice. The Nike ad above would lead us to believe that Kap has made an inspiring sacrifice. Yet there’s nothing in the ad about his actual sacrifice – the very reason that he’s on Nike’s payroll, and not an NFL team’s. At this point, Kap is being reduced to pleasantries. “Thank you for your service. Here’s a check. Thank you so much for inspiring others!” Even Kap has to be thinking, “Nike is being very gracious to my cause, but uh, I was kind of eluding more to Baltimore, to St. Louis, not a high schooler making a one-handed catch…”

Kidding aside, in the grand scheme of things, maybe Kap’s protest isn’t Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of a bus. But Kap was reacting to something he was observing in our culture, and he exercised his right to risk his career and take a stand. Wise? (debatable) Noble? (sure, but again, depends on where you stand). However, the commercial demonstrates how quickly our culture can twist a person’s sense of justice into 1) a marketing ploy, and 2) an excuse to give us all more law – not only about keeping our injustice antennae up, but apparently also making sure that we are the “best ever” at whatever it is we do. And that includes our elementary-aged children. Regardless of their disability, cultural status, or opportunity, they too must make good on their commitment to live their best lives now. Ugh.

From this couch in this TV room, I find that Kap’s cause comes out the loser here. His protest is reduced to one more iteration of American-Puritan-Self-Help-Bootstrapping.  Nike is reducing the cry against injustice to a “You can be like God” – “Just Do It” campaign. That’s insidious.  The commercial is slick and entertaining, in all of the good and bad ways that Matt Schneider wrote about. It’s also a swoop by Nike.  I liked it better when it was just a Swoosh.

I’m probably still gonna try to “be like Serena”, and my wife is probably going to be on a first name basis with the pharmacy techs at CVS. At my best and worst, I’m still just as susceptible to those inspiring ads! And while my cries for justice may not be noble or cinematic, they are quick to turn me into yet another disciple of bootstraps ideology. For example, if God intervened, and I got my way, and our National Anthem was actually Ray Charles’ rendition of America the Beautiful? And someone took a knee to that? Well then, we gonna throw down, y’all.