JOHN GRANATO

Kaepernick, Nike pour more gas on a combustible fire

Colin Kaepernick jerseys say a lot. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I saw a man wearing a 49ers No. 7 jersey at the LSU-Miami game Sunday night. It meant something. He was making a statement about who he was and where he was coming from.

Is there another jersey in any sport that has that kind of power, that makes that kind of statement politically or socially? I don’t think so.

It doesn’t matter which side you’re on on this issue. I have my opinion, you have yours and I know I’m not going to change yours no matter what I say. Like most everything these days it’s two sides screaming their positions at each other, not hearing or caring what the other side feels or says.

I have not once on Twitter seen someone say, “That’s a good point” or “I hadn’t thought of that. You’ve changed my mind on this.”

Nope.

It’s pretty much been mud slinging, race baiting, Democrat vs Republican, Trump lovers vs Trump haters, black vs white, woke vs I don’t know what that means, old vs young, conservative vs liberal and on and on and blah blee blah blee blah….

I personally don’t like anyone disrespecting our flag but I respect anyone’s right to do it.

It’s sad that there are black Americans who feel that our flag represents a country that doesn’t treat their race equally. But that’s the case.

I also get that people are offended by kneeling during the Anthem. That flag means something to them. It’s what’s draped over the caskets of our dead soldiers. It’s what people have died for for centuries.

I get that I can’t choose what form of protest people use. I wish it wasn’t the flag but it is. That’s why some soldiers are OK with it because they fought for the freedom to choose your form of protest. It’s what makes America great. We can protest however we want. It’s how we beat England and became The United States of America.

I also get that some soldiers hate it because they fought for that flag. It means something to them. They risked their lives defending that flag and don’t want it disrespected.

I’m not sure if Colin Kaepernick knew how big this would get when he sat then kneeled those first few times. It’s incredible. And it will be interesting to see how this affects Nike. It’ll be a case study for economists: the long-term effects of an advertising campaign based on a polarizing topic.

How many times has the word Nike been written or spoken since the campaign started? They said in the first 24 hours Nike received $43 million in free media advertising. It doesn’t offset their 3.16% stock price hit on the first day of trading but they are in this for the long haul. Analysts feel it will bounce back in a big way. I’m pretty sure they expected to take some hits early on.

I don’t believe their ad campaign is accurate though. Kaepernick didn’t sacrifice everything. He still has millions from his 49ers deal and he’s been getting paid by Nike all this time while he basically sat on the bench for them. All he really sacrificed was a chance to be a backup quarterback in the NFL.

Whether he wanted to or not he’s traded that in to be the face of a movement. He is this century’s Jim Brown only bigger.

He will be a symbol for a long time to come; a symbol that many love and many hate. It’s pretty black and white. There’s not much gray here.

Are you a kneeler or a stander? Are you team Nike now or burning your shoes?

It sure would be nice if we could back on track though. The real issue is still the inequitable treatment of blacks in this country. Anyone remember that? Anyone care to address that instead of this flag thing?

Anyone? Anyone?

Thanks Nike. Just what we needed: more gas on that fire.


 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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