Nike’s Message Still Stirring Up Controversy

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Nike’s Message Still Stirring Up Controversy

Not too long ago, Nike released an advertisement with Colin Kaepernick that stirred up lots of controversy. The point of the advertisement as well as Kaepernick’s protest was to fight and bring awareness to police brutality and racial injustice. However, many people have misconstrued this message, and believe that form of protest (and supporting that protest) is disrespectful to the flag and the troops. The initial release of this advertisement campaign included a picture of Colin with the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Jesse Williams, most known for his role on Grey’s Anatomy, is currently directing a movie about Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley. To give a little background, Emmett Till was 14 year old black male falsely accused of flirting with a white woman, Carolyn Bryant during the Jim Crow Era. The result of this accusation was extremely gruesome. Emmett Till was beaten and shot; his body was lost for three days until two men found him in a river. His head was mutilated, he has a gunshot wound to the head, an eyeball out of the socket, and barbed wire was found around his neck. To make matters worse, though it should not be surprising, his murderers were acquitted. Mamie Till made the brave decision to have her son have an open-casket, public funeral. The picture of his unrecognizable, beaten body circulated and outraged many which led to Emmett Till’s death being a catalyst for Civil Rights reform. She began touring the country to relay the story of her son’s death for the NAACP.

Jesse Williams, in an effort to announce the movie he was directing, tweeted multiple advertisements of grieving Mamie Till with the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” This caused quite the Twitter frenzy. Many people felt the advertisement was disrespectful to Emmett and his mother, as his death was not an intentional sacrifice but, rather, a very gruesome murder. On the contrary, people believed Williams’ post had good intentions because the movie is centered around Mamie Till who did, in a way, sacrifice her time to grieve in order to fight such racial injustice. The ads left people feeling very uncomfortable and confused. I see both sides of the argument, myself. I understand why Williams thought the use powerful message of Nike’s campaign to highlight a movie about a pivotal moment in the Civil Right Movement. However, I did question the timing and execution as it could easily be interpreted in a manner that does not recognize Emmett Till’s death for what is truly was: a lynching. Many people have also used this advertisement to question his success of directing the movie. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. This movie already has the potential to be amazing because the story behind Emmett Till’s death is so controversial and powerful, but now I fear people will be wanting to see how well Jesse Williams can direct as opposed to the true message behind the movie.


1 Comment

Meghan Hilton

Meghan Hilton

September 25, 2018at 10:43 am

Jumping on the tail of a trending topic can be a risk, but I do think this was done well. Jesse Williams took an already very well recognized image and turned it into an ad that speaks to those who view it. I agree with the supporters. While she did not sacrifice her son, she put aside her grief and sacrificed her time of mourning to use his death to spark awareness. This ad should be applauded, the image he used told a story and makes me want to watch the film.

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