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Colin Kaepernick ad

Branded

The real meaning of sacrifice

Kevin Godlington

Entrepreneur and former soldier Kevin Godlington on Colin Kaepernick and the button-pushing advert which misrepresents the word 'sacrifice'.

In our modern polarised and tribalized political world, brands have offered themselves as lifestyle platforms, supporting one political ideology or another. We’re supposed to buy or avoid these brands based on our values.

Here in the UK we are mirroring what has been happening in the US for decades, with sports fans being loyal in their millions to one brand over another, merely because of the team the brand happens to sponsor. It’s another method of mind control and psychological warfare. We are compelled by corporates to abide by their whims just as much as we are political belief systems. Many of my US friends drink a particular kind of beer linked to their sport or team – brand loyalty is deep.

As a veteran I’ve watched with complete bemusement the Colin Kaepernick and Nike affair. An ad campaign that is controversial because the ideological narrative is that by kneeling during the national anthem – something Colin started – he is somehow disrespecting the flag and, by default, the troops. The troops are sacred in American and British political discourse, and generally above critique – not something I agree with.

I believe we should be ensuring our collective armed forces are looked after appropriately after returning from war, with suitable high quality medical assistance where needed and psychological decompression, and that proper festivals-of-remembrance are levied and observed by all of society to remind us of our lost brothers and sisters, and the deep and entrenched sacrifices that have been made through history to retain our freedoms. And that the liberty we enjoy is taught to our children, so we learn from our mistakes and pause to reflect on those courageous souls who advanced our cause.

Beyond this I, as a veteran who has served oversees on foreign soil, expect nothing else in return. Don’t stand up for me, don’t applaud me, don’t thank me for my service, go about your day and leave me the fuck alone.

Colin has been clear that his silent protest was about inner-city police violence against African Americans and is not an attack at the armed forces. It came about after a conversation with a good friend of his and a former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, and he opted to take a knee rather than sit during the national anthem as a sort of compromise between the two. So, what’s wrong with that? Seems ok? He’s an activist right? I love activists, activists challenge and check power, they raise our standards and they further our society and humanity’s evolution. He is leading from the front in being a thought leader on this subject and given how many African Americans play in the NFL, it quickly became a movement. Colin HAS put his neck on the line and all the NFL owners, the billionaires with little train sets and penis extenders to play with – many close friends with Trump – all conspired to end his career, or at best side-line him and silence him.

Silencing him didn’t work, and he became a positive force for activism and civil rights. But then, just as we think it’s all over and Colin is going to propagate a career as a full time civil rights guru….

…In sweeps the exploitive branding agents, the corporates, and with them a team of highly devious algorithm and mass data analysts. The same clever fuckers who interpret the electorate’s Facebook data and get the likes of Trump elected. The same puerile bile drivers who know exactly how to push the buttons of the general public and divide us, rile us, beguile us, and get us arguing. To get us trolling and liking and sharing.

Nike knew only too well what would happen the moment they wheeled good old Colin’s head out on the billboards. For sure it was going to cause disarray and disbelief from the chest beating masses of die-hard America. These brands are as good at divisive behaviour and misdirection as the political masters in the engine rooms of our democracies. For the most part they are not value aligned, nor do they share any sort of decent ethics, they’ll simply pick the horse that looks most likely to win or cause the most fuss and headlines.

 

This brings me swiftly onto my main bugbear here, the wording on the Nike advert.

 

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”  NIKE

Sacrifice is a strong word. It can be as often misunderstood as ‘hero”. It comes down to what we all perceive as being a worthy sacrifice and an acceptable level of heroism. Nike know only too well that Colin is wrongly accused of detrimental behaviour to the military, by default, for not kneeling: the military have amongst their rank and file, real heroes, who have given real sacrifice, many who have given their lives. The total and complete definition of sacrifice is to give your life for a noble and worthy cause. Colin isn’t even close to this.

He gave up an NFL career – maybe part of it at least – then got paid millions and millions and millions of dollars to stick his head on an ad. A sacrifice? He’s still driving nice wheels, he’s not hurting. He’s not asking for meal vouchers. History will decide if Colin is a sell-out, an opportunist, or a real activist, it’s not for me to judge, I don’t know the dude. But I promise you one thing, Nike and the team knew exactly what they were doing, they know only too well the deft connection between the military determination of sacrifice and of the purported sacrifice of an NFL player standing up against police brutality. They knew this word would be hugely divisive and massively controversial. Nike have exploited and divided us, and as a society we need to decide if we are going to keep falling for this psychological warfare or stand up to it.

As for Colin, I think he has been exploited too, but with tens of millions of dollars as his compensation, for me, no, that’s not a sacrifice.

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