Right Opinion

More From Nike and New York Times Op-ed

Bill Wagner · Sep. 11, 2018

Football season is underway. My Giants lost, but they showed enough promising signs that the need to hide all the sharp objects in the house can be deferred for another week. Along with the blocks and tackles, viewers were subjected to the Nike commercial featuring Colin Kaepernick.

In classic Nike fashion, the production quality was superb and the theme was laudable. Kaepernick may have been the narrator, but the story line included other famous black athletes who have really sacrificed, overcome obstacles, pursued their dreams, and succeeded wildly — LeBron James, O'Dell Beckham, and Serena Williams among them. And the ad did its job: Nike’s online sales are up over 30%, and its stock has recovered the losses from the initial announcement of the ad campaign. As predicted, the marketing gurus at Nike knew what they were doing.

But I remained puzzled as to why Kaepernick was in the mix. It was not at all clear how he had been willing to risk everything in pursuit of his dreams, and Nike somehow missed the memo that he hasn’t “succeeded.” The fact is that he had one good year in the NFL, but then was cut because other quarterbacks beat him out. He has not landed with an NFL team ever since. The NFL is the ultimate meritocracy, and the simple fact of life is that Kaepernick was not a good enough football player, so being unemployed is a function of ability. But the implication of the ad is that he has not been hired because the owners blackballed him for leading the take-a-knee movement. Nike is unlikely to want to build an ad campaign around an athlete who flat-out failed.

Nike may want to celebrate him for his social commentary, but to put him in the same category as athletes who really did sacrifice everything to succeed is ludicrous. It says more about Nike’s target audience than anything else. Sympathizers have so identified Kaepernick with social injustice protests that they have lost sight of the message. Either that or Nike wanted to imply that the other athletes were social warriors too, an attribute that apparently drives the train in its target demographic. It may be brilliant marketing, but it’s sad commentary on the awareness and intellect of that same demographic.

This was on a par with the other creative imagery on display last week, otherwise known as the coordinated “Trump is unfit” effort among Bob Woodward, The New York Times and its anonymous op-ed writer, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who encouraged Congress to invoke the 25th Amendment. Not counting Cory Booker’s “Spartacus” moment, it was the most visible marketing sleight of hand since Lanny Davis launched Michael Cohen’s GoFundMe page.

Recall that the rationale for this was that Cohen needed the money so he could “continue to tell the truth about Trump.” But then it surfaced that Cohen’s net worth was somewhere around $10 million, which made the impoverished truth-teller narrative a tad silly, and it quickly faded. But what was never said was that the real reason for the funding effort was never about money; it was to enhance the “Trump is unfit” narrative.

Announcing the fund with a “noble” anti-Trump rationale, getting some rich Democrat contributors to seed the fund with a couple hundred thousand dollars, and then going public with the theme that Trump is so bad that regular Americans are prepared to write checks to pursue the truth against him is circular and self-fulfilling, but the public is catching on, and the shelf life of these scams is now being measured in hours. Too bad for Bruce Ohr and Rod Rosenstein.

But it got me thinking more about the anonymous New York Times op-ed and how it too was all about image, not facts. I still maintain that the author will turn out to be a low-level Millennial who was sweet-talked by the Times with promises of revered whistle-blower status. But when the name is revealed, he or she will wind up having a fame half-life shorter than Omarosa Manigault. But it moved me to take a closer look at the specifics of the op-ed. There didn’t appear to be much argument over Trump’s policies and achievements, only despair that he is “acting in a way detrimental to the health of our republic.”

Apparently, that means the following:

  • He changes his mind and acts impulsively. (Welcome to the decision-making process of entrepreneurs who have owned their own company for decades).

  • He has deference for dictators. (Welcome to Negotiations 101, in which flattery might be designed to enhance your bargaining position).

  • He has no appreciation for historical ties with like-minded countries. (Welcome to the new definition of “like-minded,” in which NATO “allies” don’t pay their fair share, Euro-elites tout the Paris climate accord and open borders, and “friends” impose draconian tariffs).

  • His impulses are anti-trade and anti-democratic. (Welcome to “fair trade,” in which zero tariffs for all is the goal, and border security, wherein our laws are followed and executive fiat orders like DACA are recognized for the unconstitutional intrusions on congressional power that they are).

  • He does not abide by conservative ideals like free minds, free markets, and free people. (This is so arrogant and silly that it’s hard to respond to, but try tax cuts and regulation reductions that allow “free” people to keep more of their own money and act as they wish in “free” markets. I’m baffled by how Trump has become anti-“free mind,” unless it refers to an aversion to the “free press” devoting 90% of its ink to bashing him, often with stories created out of whole cloth).

Trump’s “leadership style” is called impetuous, petty, adversarial, and ineffective — so ineffective that he has cut taxes dramatically, eliminated burdensome regulation, destroyed ISIS, strengthened the military, gotten a slew of conservative justices onto district courts and is a few weeks away from putting two of the same on the Supreme Court, renegotiated terrible one-sided trade deals, pulled out of the disastrous Iran nuke deal, canceled the Paris climate accords, and put us on a path toward denuking North Korea, to name just a few.

But what I think is really coming through is that Trump doesn’t simply need the author and his cadres of “senior officials” to get things done. They are not important enough to matter. After decades of both parties arguing mostly about which one could better preside over an ever-expanding government monstrosity that was forever intruding on personal freedom, Trump has decided to ignore the bureaucracy and do what he promised in the presidential campaign. And it is making the author and his “like-minded” unsung heroes crazy.

I realize that it is risky politics to consider a “government shutdown” so close to an election, but wouldn’t Trump just love an excuse to tell 75% of the nonmilitary government workforce to stay home so that we could all see how well the important things continued on without them? As a business guy and a single proprietor decision-maker, it must drive Trump nuts to have to look around every day at the hundreds of thousands of bureaucratic government worker bees and wonder what the heck they do all day. At least the op-ed clarified some of that puzzle. They have enough time on their hands to lament their irrelevance and write about it.

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