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You are free to burn your shoes

People have burned shoes, shirts, anything with the trademark Nike swoosh. They have declared a boycott of the brand over an advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick.

Nike announced earlier this week that Kaepernick is one of the athletes featured in the company’s 30th anniversary celebration of its iconic slogan “Just Do It.” The ad features Kaepernick’s face with the words: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Nike has been criticized by President Trump, American Family Radio,  country artist John Rich and scores of others online. Rich even posted a photo of a pair of Nike socks that had been destroyed by a friend. Those evil socks!

The burning of Nike gear is a bit odd considering people are destroying things they have already purchased.  I can get behind a good boycott, but throwing out things that cost money is more performance art than anything else. These folks could at least donate the Nike gear to the less-fortunate instead of burning it. Or to me. I’ll take your unwanted shoes and shirts.

But that’s not the point. People wanted to show their displeasure in the company and the internet gave them the platform to do so. There was also a bit of “look at me, look at me, look at me” going on in these Nike-burning videos. People crave attention and burning things tends to attract attention. Always has. Just light a burn pile in your backyard and see what happens.

Nike, with its multi-million-dollar marketing department, knew this was coming. It knew there would be backlash — that’s part of the reason why they chose Kaepernick. He’s controversial, he’s polarizing, he’s a marketing dream. Controversy brings attention and attention is the only thing marketers want.

All the protesting and burning drew eyeballs to a TV advertisement that would have otherwise come and gone like the rest of them. In their desire to punish Nike, protesters have boosted the company’s image and provided untold millions in free publicity. Nike wins.

But I understand the sentiment. Destroying things with a Nike swoosh just feels right, especially if you think Kaepernick is wrong.

I don’t happen to think he is right or wrong; choosing to kneel during the National Anthem is neither. There are plenty of folks who stand for the anthem, but instead of paying respect to the flag, they play on their phones, or talk to their children, or stare at the pretty clouds. They are not right or wrong, either. There is no moral absolute in this case. (I realize there is a Flag Code but it’s only a guide, it’s not enforceable law.)

That’s the beauty of this great country. We can sit, stand, squat, lie down or place ourselves in any other position during the singing of any song. It’s a free speech thing. We can sing along with the anthem, or we can remain silent. We can even change the last line when we watch Atlanta play ball: “And the home of the …. Braves!”

It’s all acceptable. Some of us may not like how other people choose to behave during the anthem, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Not liking something does not equal “wrongness.”

Personally, I wish everyone would stand for the anthem, place a hand over their heart and stare respectfully at Old Glory. But my kids haven’t mastered that yet. They are more likely to be picking their nose or eating a hotdog as they are standing at attention.

If the NFL, as a private employer, wants to require its employees to stand for the anthem, they can. It’s their business. If Kaepernick (should he ever get on a roster) or any other athlete disagrees with the policy, they are welcome to be employed elsewhere. No one is forcing them to show up for work there. But just because the money-hungry NFL says something is right and wrong, that doesn’t make it so.

But keep burning your Nike stuff. That freedom is protected in this country, too. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s wrong to burn your possessions, remind them that not liking your actions does not mean your actions are wrong.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.