The Colin Kaepernick/NIKE Story a Teachable Moment for Educators!

There is an important and powerful message for educators in the Colin Kaepernick/NIKE Story; and that is if you work with an open and giving heart, everything will turn out fine.

My lesson objectives take-aways from the Colin Kaepernick/NIKE story are:

First, disappointment is often linked to a wonderful and profound reappointment; that everything happening to you, even if it feels ‘bad’ in the moment, is supposed to happen. I suspect that in some quiet and alone moments, Mr. Kaepernick thinks about the joys of playing football; something that he is gifted and talented to do at the highest and most competitive level. The key is to be true to your life’s calling, and to a cause that takes you out of your zone of material and emotional comfort. For a life lived in fear that you will be denied something ‘shinny’, is a kind of hell. You ask yourself: “What will become of my life, will these ‘shinny’ things be taken away, or withheld from me?” And yet being a slave to them is not really having a life at all.

Second, a lesson in scholar-athleticism is being displayed by Kaepernick; as it has also been recently represented so well by LeBron James in building a school. It’s not, as some coaches, student athletes, and sadly often parents, mistakenly believe to be only about: ‘having the (sadly too often minimum) passing grades for participation’. Scholar-Athleticism is also about developing and displaying character, a compassionate concern for people and issues who cry out for a champion to champion their struggles with the unfair obstacles of life. The great myth that professional athletes like Colin Kaepernick are exposing and destroying; is that there is something called “Sports”; and then there is something allegedly unrelated called “Politics”!

Third, for those high school economics teachers, this is a perfect ‘lesson starter’ to teach how capitalism can ‘brilliantly’ (that’s brilliance, not ethically moral), turn even protest into profit. One of many ‘interesting’ things about capitalism Karl Marx did not foresee. (And yes, in many high schools both regular and AP economics are offered as courses, is that true in your child’s high school? Just asking for a friend.)

Fourth, the wonderful rewards of study, planning, research, and then acting. These three procedural-process, conceptual and behavioral skills are what we want every high school student to graduate having them secured in their ‘life-long-learning tool box’. This was not an impulsive move for NIKE, and it seems ‘the plan’ was in the ‘works’ for a long time. Clearly, NIKE has done its marketing research, and concluded that going forward with people like the two pitiful plantationeers Jerry Jones (Owner Dallas Cowboys) and Donald Trump (Unfit POTUS), was a losing long-term market building strategy. Trump’s core supporters; the old, unreflecting and angry (as opposed to the young and more flexible and thoughtful), are dying off as they represent a shrinking demographic, they either don’t buy NIKE, or won’t be able to buy NIKE products because Trumps policies are impoverishing them.

Fifth: How many times in a principal’s career will they need to have a ‘bad timing’ conversation-lesson with a student in their office? NIKE’s timing was perfect here, as the NFL/NCAA college football season has just started, and sponsorship contracts stretch far into the future; which means they have analyzed and concluded that the upset members of the public will have ‘short attention spans’ (or die off); and so once the ‘Tide’ and other teams get rolling, the fans will focus on what is really important, not the ‘swoosh’ symbols on the athlete’s uniforms, but rather on the games themselves!

And lesson #6: “I need to ‘like’ that teacher, that teacher’s ‘style’, in order to learn the lesson, or to do well in that class”; sound familiar middle-high school principals? Your ‘help’, what you may need, may not show up in the ‘package’ you have designed in your mind! We should not live in presumed anticipation or prejudge from whence our help and support will arrive; it may not be the person(s) or places you assume who will, ‘bring it’! Perhaps your help won’t look like, and/or how you think it should look. I mean like NIKE, really? NIKE promoting a hero advocate of Black lives having meaning and mattering in this nation, who knew! The interesting thing about a book authorship journey, is that you never know who and how the book will connect you to people. I spend some wonderful moments each day communicating with new and interesting people in person, by phone and writing, from all over the world. You never know who will come ‘knocking’; but like some of my 1950’s Brooklyn elders would say: “Sometimes, you just have to throw a ‘rent party’ and see who shows up!” NIKE showed up, and so let them dance!

Finally, lesson #7: Educators, if we remain brave and true to our calling of serving the disenfranchised, disentitled and disregarded children of our world, we may at times be disappointed, feel abandon and/or marginalized, we may suffer, and we may even appear to lose, but we will not fail. If this divine promise is not true, then the entire transcendent ‘arc of justice and goodness’ of the universe, is also untrue; and if that is so, then we are doomed anyway to the eternal rule of evil; and so why not: Just Keep Doing It on behalf of our children!

Michael A. Johnson has served as a public school teacher, Science Skills Center director, principal, and a school district superintendent. He also served as an adjunct professor of Science Education in the School of Education at St. John’s University. He recently completed a book on school leadership: Report to the Principal’s Office: Tools for Building Successful High School Administrative Leadership…