Thanks to his undeniable influence on the national discussion about race, social justice and equality, Colin Kaepernick will now be joining the likes of numerous African American icons who have received Harvard’s highest honor in African and African American studies.
Thursday, Harvard announced that Kaepernick, along with seven others, including comedian Dave Chapelle, will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois medal “in recognition of their contributions to African and African American culture and the life of the mind.”
Among the other recipients who will be honored at the October ceremony will be Kehinde Wiley, the artist who painted Barack Obama’s official portrait. Past award winners include Muhammad Ali and Maya Angelou.
Two seasons after he began kneeling to protest police and racial injustice, Kaepernick is still out of the NFL causing many, including his lawyers to speculate that he had been blackballed as punishment for his activism.
Kaepernick most recently made headlines after it was revealed that he would be the centerpiece of Nike’s 30th anniversary for their “Just Do It” campaign. While the move has caused the brand to be highly praised and was enough to increase their stock, it’s also made them the target of racists who are already against everything Kaepernick stands for as an athlete and Black man.
Tuesday, USA Today reported that Kaepernick was featured on fake Nike coupons promising large discounts off apparel for Black people. A move clearly meant to cause division and paint the picture that Nike was showing unfair bias in favor of African-Americans.
The coupons came with the accompanying message: “To show solidarity with the things WE believe in we are offering people of color 75 percent off any purchase of Nike’s shoes or apparel.”
To make matters even worse, Snopes uncovered that some of the online coupons that had a QR code that could be scanned, included the message: “This is a ROBBERY, Move slowly and put all the LARGE bills in the shoe box OR everyone DIES.”
However, Nike’s point-of-sale systems, doesn’t have a system that supports reading QR codes.
“I wouldn’t characterize this as a scam, but a full on racial epithet,” Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, said to USA Today in an email. “This is nothing more than a dog whistle to a small, and unfortunate, segment of America. Another way to put it is that this is a racial statement masquerading as a scam.”
Despite efforts to undermine their collaboration, since teaming up with Kaepernick, Nike’s online shoe sales have jumped up 31 percent, according to a report from Edison Trends, a San Francisco-based research firm. This is a good deal better than the 17 percent jump the retailer saw last year in the same time period, The Washington Post reports.