Americans Reject Calls For Nike Boycott

Nike just took a big step by taking its marketing campaign into the political arena. Despite calls for boycotts from those who support racism and fascism, the new advertising campaign has already generated plenty of free publicity and a spike in sales.

The racists and fascists claim that Nike, Colin Kaepernick and others who protest the murders of unarmed American citizens by public servants is anti-American, unpatriotic and disrespectful to veterans, members of the armed services and police officers. Not so fast. Let’s cut through the rhetoric and propaganda.

Over the past 50 years, African-Americans and Hispanic soldiers have seen more front line duty in the U.S. military than their white counterparts. They have incurred more fatalities than whites. The discrimination continues and minorities have paid their dues. So, if any social group in America has earned the right to use the flag and a song as an opportunity to draw attention to ongoing racism, fascism and corruption, it’s racial minorities. They are defending America and Americans, when public servants only want to defend themselves with shallow symbols and conversations.

Ironically and undeniably, African-Americans and other minorities have fought in the nation’s wars for centuries. They have eagerly defended the basic freedoms that are denied to their families. In addition to discrimination, this institutional racism is a form of taxation without representation. Similar injustices and abuses sparked the American Revolution and gave rise to the formation of this great nation. As our forefathers intended, the flag flies for everyone or it flies for no one.

It’s time to defend much more than just a piece of cloth. Our air, food and water are being contaminated with industrial waste. Neurodegenerative disease is the fastest-growing cause of death in America and the world. Autism continues to soar because of the rampant release of neurotoxins into the world we depend upon. Public property and budgets are being plundered. The nation is on its way to bankruptcy with a record national debt and a bankruptcy expert at the helm. Yet, the only conversation mainstream media and the White House can muster is one about the national anthem. It’s time for deeper conversations. Answers begin with the truth and the misguided national anthem debate is a convenient smokescreen for a hijacked administration. The fascists who are wrapping themselves in the American flag are actually anti-American traitors. They stand only for themselves. They would make Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels proud. Just say no to their ignorance and hate.

When Colin Kaepernick took a stand against racism, injustice and many other social ills in August 2016, President Trump and other sick minds twisted the conversation with old school propaganda. Instead of addressing the issues of racism, murder, corruption, cover-ups and more, those who stand up for these victims are being attacked. Their patriotism has been questioned. Their second-amendment rights have been challenged. My guess is that millions of patriots from years gone by are rolling over in their graves as public servants are shooting unarmed citizens in the back. Those who speak up are being stabbed in the back. The party line is that these shootings will continue until morale improves. That’s the fascist party.

It’s interesting how the machine is quicker to defend a symbol of a free nation than defending the people themselves. Propaganda is alive and well and Americans owe it to themselves, their families and their nation to think for themselves on this issues and many others.

Kaepernick signed a new, multiyear deal with Nike that makes him a face of the 30th anniversary of the sports apparel company’s “Just Do It” campaign. With just one tweet, the former NFL quarterback and Nike have set the world on fire, causing a flurry of stories in major publications, inspiring a top trending hashtag across social media.

Reaction to Kaepernick’s tweet was swift. Almost immediately, “Just Do It” and “Nike” became top trending terms on Twitter in the United States, and by morning the hashtag #NikeBoycott was one of the most used on the social media service. People posted videos and photographs of themselves destroying their Nike apparel in response to the company’s decision to work with Kaepernick.

Nike’s stock price fell more than two percent after the announcement. While some investors are likely nervous that the company’s decision to feature Kaepernick could inspire a boycott, the stock price of Adidas also was down more than two percent that morning. The broader stock market downturn was being blamed on worries about tense negotiations over NAFTA. But one week later, Nike reported that online sales had jumped by 31 percent after unveiling the campaign.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told Steve Wyche of NFL Media about the decision two years ago. “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.”

national anthem protest

An analysis of the available FBI data by Vox’s Dara Lind found that US police kill black people at disproportionate rates: Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population.

The disparities appear to be even starker for unarmed suspects, according to an analysis of 2015 police killings by the Guardian. Racial minorities made up about 37.4 percent of the general population in the US and 46.6 percent of armed and unarmed victims, but they made up 62.7 percent of unarmed people killed by police.

The 30-year-old quarterback filed a collusion grievance against the league, which claimed he was being kept out of the league because of the protests he started. His argument received a boost last week when arbitrator Stephen B. Burbank ruled there was enough evidence to require a full hearing.

These disparities in police use of force reflect more widespread racial inequities across the entire American criminal justice system. Black people are much more likely to be arrested for drugs, even though they’re not more likely to use or sell them. And black inmates make up a disproportionate amount of the prison population.

The racial disparities have fueled criticisms of law enforcement over the past few years, culminating in the Black Lives Matter movement that has risen to national prominence due to the controversial police killings of Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Freddie Gray in Baltimore and many others. For critics, the disparities and high-profile killings have fostered concerns that black lives matter less to police, and that the next victim of a police shooting could be just about any black American.

Multiple investigations by the media and the US Department of Justice have uncovered patterns of abuse and excessive use of force — particularly against black residents — all over the country. In Baltimore, a September 2014 report by the Baltimore Sun’s Mark Puente found that the city had paid about $5.7 million since 2011 to more than 100 people — most of whom were black — who claimed that officers had beaten them.

In another investigation released after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, the Justice Department found a pattern of racial bias at the Ferguson Police Department — typically in an effort to ticket as many low-income black residents as possible in an attempt to raise local budget revenue through fines and court fees. Police encounters could get downright abusive, the Justice Department explained.

Reports with similar findings have been filed by the Justice Department in Los Angeles; New Orleans; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Portland, Oregon. By itself, each report exposed deeply troubling problems at an individual police department. But taken altogether, the reports show that no single city, state, or region is immune to allegations of police brutality that critics of law enforcement find so concerning.

The federal government tracks police shootings and killings through the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’s Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD), but both vastly undercount the number of deaths to police.

A 2015 study by RTI International, which conducted the analysis for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that from 2003 to 2009 and 2011, ARD captured approximately 49 percent of people killed by police, while SHR captured 46 percent. Neither system picked up about 28 percent of law enforcement homicides in the US, meaning more than one-quarter of police-caused deaths weren’t tracked at all under ARD or SHR.

In January 2015, former US Attorney General Eric Holder called for better data collection of police killings. The FBI plans to try to collect better data on police killings, but the new system will still make such reports voluntary for police departments. Again, that’s the big flaw in how the feds collect data now: It means entire states, like Florida, New York, and Illinois, can refuse to file any data for police killings year after year.

“The troubling reality is that we lack the ability right now to comprehensively track the number of incidents of either uses of force directed at police officers or uses of force by police,” Holder said. “This strikes many — including me — as unacceptable.”

For critics of law enforcement, the incomplete data is just another way it’s difficult to hold police accountable. Without complete and accurate statistics, it’s impossible to evaluate the extent of racial disparities in police killings, and how the US truly compares with other countries in deaths by law enforcement.

Legally, what most matters in these shootings is whether police officers reasonably believed that their or others’ lives were in danger, not whether the shooting victim actually posed a threat.

Police are very rarely prosecuted for shootings — and not just because the law allows them wide latitude to use force on the job. Sometimes the investigations fall onto the same police department the officer is from, which creates major conflicts of interest. Other times the only available evidence comes from eyewitnesses, who may not be as trustworthy in the public eye as a police officer.

“There is a tendency to believe an officer over a civilian, in terms of credibility,” David Rudovsky, a civil rights lawyer who co-wrote Prosecuting Misconduct: Law and Litigation, told Vox’s Amanda Taub. “And when an officer is on trial, reasonable doubt has a lot of bite. A prosecutor needs a very strong case before a jury will say that somebody we generally trust to protect us has so seriously crossed the line as to be subject to a conviction.”

If police are charged, they’re rarely convicted. The National Police Misconduct Reporting Project analyzed 3,238 criminal cases against police officers from April 2009 through December 2010. They found that only 33 percent were convicted, and 36 percent of officers who were convicted ended up serving prison sentences. Both of those are about half the rate at which members of the public are convicted or incarcerated.

The low conviction and incarceration rates have fed into the idea among critics of law enforcement that police can get away with using deadly force even in situations that don’t call for it. This poses concerns for those who want to hold police accountable, but critics also worry it has fostered a police culture that’s too lenient in using force because cops believe there most likely won’t be legal consequences even if they make a bad call.

Reformers, including the Obama administration, have pushed police-worn body cameras, which could help hold law enforcement accountable and deter excessive use of force by recording most or all their actions.

Recording the police proved its worth time and time again in 2015. After the police shootings of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, and Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati, video footage of the shootings proved that police lied and exaggerated in their accounts of the events. Without such footage, prosecutors and juries may have been left to the whims of police accounts to decide whether the officers involved should be punished, and the cops may have gotten away with no criminal charges. With the footage, it was much more plausible that the cops did something wrong, and they were charged accordingly.

“As police officers continue to terrorize black and brown communities, abusing their power, and then hiding behind their blue wall of silence, and laws that allow for them to kill us with virtual impunity, I have realized that our love, that sometimes manifests as black rage, is a beautiful form of defiance against a system that seeks to suppress our humanity. A system that wants us to hate ourselves,” Kaepernick said.

government affairs

After consulting a military veteran, started kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games in 2016. He said he wanted to raise awareness of racism, social injustice and police brutality against black people and people of color. Although Kaepernick has received numerous honors for his efforts, including being named GQ magazine’s Citizen of the Year for 2017, the movement he started remains polarizing.

A poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released showed 54 percent of respondents deemed kneeling during the anthem inappropriate, while 43 percent called it appropriate. However, on a political note, 72 percent of Democrats say kneeling is fitting, versus 23 percent who say it’s not. For Republicans, the numbers are reversed, with 10 percent appropriate, 88 percent not. When it comes to race, more Blacks than whites side with kneeling protests. Some 70 to 28, with African- Americans agree the kneeling protests are appropriate to fight for racial inequality.

The NFL has struggled to contain the on-field protests, which have also included raised fists and other gestures, which league officials have blamed for dragging down the league. Television ratings have declined and certain segments of the fan base have reacted angrily. President Trump has made the NFL a target for not firing players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.

Kaepernick’s protest and the entire movement have been interpreted by some as being disrespectful to the American flag and the military. Veterans groups have come down on both side of the issue. Political conservatives have widely condemned it. Many of those posting on social media Monday and Tuesday about boycotting Nike or throwing out their Nike gear referenced their connection to and support for the military, even though the players who, like Kaepernick, have protested have made it clear they are not anti-military and some veterans have expressed support for their actions.

Meanwhile, NFL owners approved anthem rules in May that would force players to stand on the sideline or remain in the locker room during the anthem. Teams with players who did not comply with the new policy would be subject to league fines, while teams could hand out individual punishment. Those guidelines are on hold, however, as discussions between the NFL and the NFL Players Association continue with the 2018 season set to start Thursday night.

“Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country,” said President Trump.

Apparently, he and many others feel that the shooting of innocent, unarmed citizens of any color by public servants is just business as usual. Standing up for the flag is more important than standing up for innocent citizens, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

The new Kaepernick advertisement features a close-up, black-and-white photograph of his face, with copy that references his kneeling and his belief that his activism is keeping him out of the league. When asked if Nike had run the campaign by the NFL, a spokeswoman, Sandra Carreon-John, responded: “Nike has a longstanding relationship with the NFL and works extensively with the league on all campaigns that use current NFL players and its marks. Colin is not currently employed by an NFL team and has no contractual obligation to the NFL.”

Even as the NFL season starts, the Kaepernick story has continued to dominate the NFL narrative. Last week, Kaepernick received an ovation from the crowd at the United States Open match between Serena Williams and Venus Williams. Serena Williams, LeBron James, Odell Beckham Jr., Shaquem Griffin and Lacey Baker are also part of the “Just Do It” anniversary campaign.

On Thursday, Kaepernick won a victory in his grievance against the league when an arbitrator let his case, in which he accuses the league of conspiring to keep him off the field because of his activism, advance.

Previously, Nike stated that it “supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society,” but the company had not used Kaepernick in any recent ad campaigns.

Despite calls for a boycott against Nike, Kaepernick will move merchandise. During the second quarter of 2017, his officially licensed jersey was the 39th-best selling in the league. As an unsigned free agent, he was the only player in the top 50 of those rankings not signed to a team.

Perceptions of police brutality have increased substantially among the total public over recent years. This change started long before Ferguson. When the public was asked about police brutality in their area following the videotaped beating of Rodney King by black police officers in L.A., perceptions of brutality had risen among both whites and blacks. Asked to consider the frequency of brutality in police departments across the country, 66% of whites and 84% of blacks thought such incidents occurred at least somewhat frequently. Through the late nineties into the early 2000s, roughly half of whites and eight in ten blacks said police brutality against blacks and Hispanics happened occasionally or often in their community.

In the last decade, very few polls have used the word “brutality” when asking questions about police practices. Recent polls have shown the blacks are much more likely to say that that the police are too quick to use deadly force and that they have very little confidence that their community police officers will not use excessive force on suspects.

Blacks and whites have very different perceptions of how much police are held accountable for misconduct. In a December 2014 poll, over twice as many whites as blacks said that they were very or somewhat confident that police are held accountable. But there is little variation between white and black attitudes about policy prescriptions for ensuring accountability. Overwhelming majorities of both agree that outside prosecutors ought to investigate incidents in which police kill unarmed civilians, that the public should be allowed to videotape police officers, and that police should wear body cameras. The belief that investigations into police misconduct need to be handled by outside prosecutors is not a new one.

“We heard from many Black citizens in the St. Louis region who do not feel heard or respected when they interact with the police or the courts. They do not feel that they are treated in an unbiased way. Rather, they feel that the presence of bias, a lack of respect, and an unwillingness to listen on the part of the police too often lead to unnecessary and/or excessive use of force,” said a report from Ferguson, Missouri after the police shat and killed an unarmed black man in 2016.

The Ferguson and other reports called for better, more extensive training for police officers. Whites today are more than twice as likely as blacks to say they are confident that the police in this country are adequately trained to avoid the use of excessive force. Majorities of both whites and blacks think most police officers need better training on how to handle confrontations with civilians, but blacks are even more likely to think so.

Connected to the issue of excessive use of force are concerns about the use of military surplus weapons and equipment by police departments. Blacks are less likely to support the use of military surplus by police departments, although the higher support among whites does not reach a majority. Blacks are also much less confident that police will use such weapons or equipment appropriately. When asked about specific situations in which police might use military materials, responses of blacks and whites follow the same pattern, with strongest support for use in the fight against terrorism and lowest support for use to control riots or violent demonstrations. Black support is somewhat lower on all measures.

Whites and blacks have different views of the current state of policing in the U.S., and the racial divide in perception is deep and longstanding. But those eager for reform can find some reasons for optimism in the similarity between blacks and whites in views on policies, and the desire of the black community to improve public safety in their communities with more, not fewer, police officers.

“So please stop using us (veterans) as your stepping stool to the real truth you and many people yourself don’t care what happens to minorities in this country. So if the players use a peaceful protest I’m all for it,” said U.S. Army Veteran Ricky Barksdale.

Meanwhile, some police officers across the country are pissed at Colin Kaepernick. The backlash also follows racial lines. When Nike announced an endorsement deal with the former NFL quarterback, the National Association of Police Organizations called for its members to boycott the Nike products.

Meanwhile, cops of color often support Kaepernick’s stance against police brutality, racism, and injustice in the United States. They also support and defend his previous protests during the national anthem.

The National Black Police Association released an open letter they sent to Mark Parker, Nike’s CEO. In the letter, the group not only condemned the calls from traditionally white police organizations to boycott Nike, but congratulated Nike on its new campaign featuring Kaepernick.

“NBPA believes that Mr. Kaepernick’s stance is in direct alignment with what law enforcement stands for—the protection of a people, their human rights, their dignity, their safety, and their rights as American citizens,” the letter reads.

Ford, a sponsor of the National Football League, also voiced support for NFL players exercising their right to free speech and peaceful protest after President Donald Trump urged fans to consider a boycott.

“We respect individuals’ rights to express their views, even if they are not ones we share,” the company said on Monday. “That’s part of what makes America great.” Will racists and fascists burn their Fords?

The company’s remarks come amid a dispute between the league and Trump, who has lashed out at players who choose to take a knee during the national anthem as a sign of silent protest over racial and social injustice. Trump said on Friday that NFL owners should fire players who refused to stand during the National Anthem. In response, players across the country knelt during the anthem before Sunday’s games. Some violated the NFL’s policy by staying off the field completely during the playing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The NFL won’t fine players who remain in the locker rooms while the anthem plays. It’s a rare form of solidarity against systemic corruption, racism and injustice.

“Our game has long provided a powerful platform for dialogue and positive change in many communities throughout our nation,” said Martha Firestone Ford, owner and chairwoman of the Detroit Lions and a member of the Ford family. She issued a statement criticizing President Trump for his comments. “Negative and disrespectful comments suggesting otherwise are contrary to the founding principles of our country, and we do not support those comments or opinions.”

Paid Patriotism Sparks Protests

Teams in the five major American sports leagues have taken in millions in marketing deals with the military since 2012, but the Department of Defense (DOD) can’t account for all of the contracts or the money. The fact that teams like the New York Jets had taken military money to honor hometown troops was revealed this spring, but a report released Wednesday shows that the spending was much larger and much more widespread than originally believed.

In all, the DOD spent $10.4 million on marketing contracts with teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS. This does not count sponsorships in NASCAR, which could total as much as $100 million. DOD can’t account for much of the money they’ve spent.

Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans from Arizona, conducted the study, and were concerned by the fact that the DOD could not account for large chunks of the money it spent. Over the course of the effort, we discovered the startling fact that DOD cannot accurately account for how many contracts it has awarded or how much has been spent; its official response to our request only accounted for 62 percent of its 122 contracts with the major league teams that we were able to uncover and 70 percent of the more than $10 million it actually spent on these contracts.

While the report concedes that some of the money appears to have been spent on legitimate recruiting efforts, a large portion went to “paid patriotism” at games.

These paid tributes included on-field color guard, enlistment and reenlistment ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, full-field flag details, ceremonial first pitches and puck drops.

Of the 122 contracts analyzed, 72 were for “paid patriotism,” most of which were sponsored by the Army National Guard. Of the six contracts that McCain and Flake found particularly egregious, four were from the National Guard and two from the Air Force:

  • The Air Force paid the Los Angeles Galaxy for “recognition of five high ranking officers of the Air Force” in 2012, as well as four sets of sideline season tickets.
  • The National Guard paid the Seattle Seahawks in 2014 for a ceremony that allowed “up to 10 soldiers to re-enlist pregame on the field.”
  • The Air Force bought 60 club-level tickets from the Cincinnati Bengals for $4,960.
  • The National Guard paid the Indianapolis Colts for the use of a suite, autographed items, field visits and appearances by cheerleaders.
  • The National Guard bought 40 lower-level center-court seats from the Indiana Pacers.
  • The National Guard bought an 18-person luxury box and an “executive-view” suite for 25 people on Military Appreciation Night.
  • Money spread across all five major leagues

In all, 18 NFL teams received contracts, with the most ($879,000) going to the Atlanta Falcons over four years for services that included a National Guard soldier returning from a deployment getting a surprise meet-and-greet with a player, 80 National Guard holding a large U.S. flag at a military-appreciation game, video board messages and a military-appreciation day at training camp.

In all, 18 NFL teams received contracts, with the most ($879,000) going to the Atlanta Falcons over four years for services that included a National Guard soldier returning from a deployment getting a surprise meet-and-greet with a player, 80 National Guard holding a large U.S. flag at a military-appreciation game, video board messages and a military-appreciation day at training camp.

The New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens all received more than a half-million dollars, while other teams received amounts ranging from $10,000 (Cleveland Browns) to $472,875 (New Orleans Saints).

The largess was not limited to the NFL, either. The Los Angeles Angels received $450,000 dollars as one of 10 MLB teams involved, while the Atlanta Hawks led eight NBA teams with $230,000.

Six NHL teams had DOD contracts, led by the Minnesota Wild, whose $570,000 total ranked among the biggest in all of sports, while the Seattle Sounders got $128,000 to lead eight MLS teams.

NASCAR gets big bucks, but so do snowmobiles and comic cons

No team, though, received nearly as much money as Aric Almirola’s Sprint Cup NASCAR program, which took in $1.56 million in 2015 from the Air Force to sponsor the car in the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekend races. While the report only listed expenditures for 2015, the Air Force has worked with Richard Petty Motorsports for the last seven years, and has been involved with NASCAR for at least 15 years.

In numbers reported in a previous Senate inquiry, the National Guard spent $88 million sponsoring Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Sprint Cup car, but couldn’t show a single recruit that had signed up because of the deal. The Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard all canceled NASCAR deals due to lack of results.

The McCain-Flake report also exposed contracts with other events such as $700,000 to the Iron Dog snowmobile race, $570,000 to college athletic programs at Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin, and $7,000 to the Alamo City Comic Con.

While McCain and Flake were concerned about the amount of contracts that DOD cannot account for, they chalked up their report as a victory.

The United States Senate’s oversight has worked. DOD has banned paid patriotism and the NFL has called on all clubs to stop accepting payment for patriotic salutes.

Other teams that were not listed in the report do regular military-themed events, such as the Detroit Pistons hosting a “Hoops for Troops” night earlier this week that included a large swearing-in ceremony.

In a letter to Senators Flake and McCain, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league is reviewing all monies received by its teams from the military:

“With respect to more specific claims around recruitment funds being used for tribute activities, we are conducting an audit of all contracts between our clubs and the military service branches or state National Guard units,” he said in the letter. “If we find that inappropriate payments were made, they will be refunded in full.”

Sen. McCain suggested that any refunds go to veterans’ causes like Wounded Warriors.

Military Targets Minorities

African-Americans have fought for the United States throughout history. They have defended and served a country that has denied them basic rights as American citizens. Despite policies of racial segregation and discrimination, African-American soldiers played a significant role from that began in the colonial period. It continues today.

During World War I, thousands of African-Americans registered for the unpopular draft. They were eager to prove their patriotism and earn equal rights at home. Many rushed to the front lines of the battle, but the majority didn’t experience combat because their superiors didn’t trust their ability to handle it. The 369th Infantry, also known as the Harlem Hellfighters, were one exception. With minimal training, they held down the battle lines for six months—longer than any other American unit in the entire war. France awarded the entire unit its highest military honor.

During World War II, the military continued to embrace the myth that African-Americans were inferior to white soldiers. Despite the racism and discrimination, more than one million African-American soldiers enlisted to stop fascist aggression in Europe and Asia.

As the war continued, attitudes began to shift. Some African-Americans took on elite positions that were previously off limits. Some units were desegregated for the very first time at the Battle Of The Bulge. Progress continued across all branches of the military. In 1948, President Truman ordered desegregation of all armed services and equality of treatment and opportunity without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. Unfortunately, it took another five years to actually abolish segregation in the military. The Korean War put the new policies to the test. African-Americans were in leadership roles and combat roles, alike.

African-Americans proceeded to serve at an increasing rate during the Vietnam War. In 1965, African-American soldiers represented almost 25 percent of the Americans killed in action. At the time, blacks only made up about 13 percent of the general population, so communities of color were baring more than their fair share of the burden. The recruitment pendulum continued to swing into black and Hispanic neighborhoods at a disparate rate.

African-Americans also complained that they were disproportionately drafted, assigned to combat units and killed in Vietnam. Statistics from the first three years of the war support these complaints. African-Americans represented approximately 11 percent of the civilian population. Yet in 1967, they represented 16.3 percent of all draftees and 23 percent of all combat troops in Vietnam. In 1965, African-Americans accounted for nearly 25 percent of all combat deaths in Vietnam. By 1967 this percentage had dropped considerably, to 12.7, but the perception that blacks were more likely to be drafted and killed remained widespread.

In May 1968, the journalist Donald Mosby traveled to Vietnam, where he spoke to a number of black soldiers about King’s assassination. He reported that many soldiers “had no intention of allowing things to stay the way they were when Dr. King was murdered.” Some soldiers had responded by embracing the black power movement. Others formed organizations like the Minority Servicemen’s Association, the Concerned Veterans Association, Black Brothers United, the Zulu 1200s, De Mau Mau and the Black Liberation Front of the Armed Forces, ostensibly to represent the collective interests of African-American soldiers but also to protect themselves.

Black anger over King’s assassination was compounded by the response of some white soldiers. When news of King’s death reached Vietnam, there were numerous reports of white soldiers hanging Confederate battle flags outside their barracks in celebration. There were at least three confirmed cross burnings. In response to complaints from black soldiers about the flag-raisings, the Army and the Marines briefly banned them, but the ban was overturned when Southern politicians objected.

The racial situation deteriorated as the war dragged on. In October 1970, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, Gen. Walter T. Kerwin, noted, “In the past year racial discord has surfaced as one of the most serious problems facing Army leadership.” Conditions were probably worse in the Marine Corps, which reported 1,060 violent racial incidents in 1970. The journalist and retired colonel Robert D. Heinl Jr. concluded in 1971 that racial conflicts were “tearing the services apart.”

It is perhaps no surprise that black and white Americans have starkly different views on progress toward racial justice. Nine in ten blacks say African-Americans have not achieved equality in this country. Four in ten are skeptical that they ever will. Yet thirty-eight percent of white Americans think “our country has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights with whites.” Among the half of whites that think there is more to do to achieve equality, almost all think that it will be achieved. The two groups are, as the Pew Research Center puts it, worlds apart.

Think about it. Our nation fought the civil war, in part, over slavery. Even after the war ended, African-Americans gained very little. The U.S. government didn’t pass the Civil Rights Act until 1964. It didn’t pass the Voting Rights Act until 1965. State-sponsored racism is still part of the equation today.

So, to put it bluntly, the U.S. Constitution and the flag stand for all Americans or they stand for no Americans. I stand with Kap, our veterans, our police officers and the other brave souls who are doing what they can to defend this nation from all evils and injustices. I don’t stand for racism, fascism, ignorance, censorship, abuse, lies, fraud, collusion, corruption and cover-ups. I stand for truth, justice and the American way—even if it means standing up to extremist thugs.

Flags and people are meaningless if they don’t stand for something. So, take a stand, even if it means taking a knee. Our veterans didn’t serve and die for a bunch of pussy grabbing, egotistic, selfish cowards. They died for each and every American. Cheers to Nike for standing up, speaking out and supporting free speech. I never expected to see a corporation of Nike’s size tackle social issues, including racism and injustice. I plan to return the support.

Freedom of speech isn’t free. African-Americans and other patriots have made the ultimate sacrifice in numerous ways. They didn’t die in the name of censorship and corruption.

So, with this history in mind, Kaepernick and others have plenty to protest. Let’s question those who have hijacked and corrupted the intent and message to help protect themselves. A democratic nation demands free speech, free people, free markets and free media. Just say no to fascist agendas.

PR firm Phoenix

Crossbow Communications is one of the leading public relations and public affairs firms in the United States. We have influenced public opinion and public policy around the world for more than 30 years. Our offices are in Denver and Phoenix.