“Speaking up doesn’t always make life easier. But easy never changed anything.”
Manchester City player Raheem Sterling has found himself as the new face of Nike after kicking off a debate about racism in football, particularly in regards to the press’s coverage of young black footballers.
On Sunday, Raheem and Nike London shared posts on their respective Instagram accounts featuring a photograph of Raheem and a quote about speaking out. The post was created by Wieden + Kennedy, with both the London and Portland offices involved.
Earlier this month, Sterling had suffered alleged racist abuse from a Chelsea fan during a match at Stamford Bridge – the incident is currently the subject of a London Metropolitan Police investigation. Last week, Raheem posted an image from the Daily Mail and accused the British press of ‘fuelling racism’ – triggering tabloids like The Sun to respond defensively
The format of the image mirrors that of the Internet-breaking image of NFL player Colin Kaepernick released by Nike in September. Kaepernick was one of the first American sportspeople to start ‘taking a knee’ during the US national anthem to protest racist discrimination and police violence in the country. Though Kaepernick had struggled to find acceptance at NFL team following the protests, it emerged that Nike had continued to support the athlete. The Tweet marked the beginning of a powerful 30th anniversary celebration of the 'Just Do It' tagline, which included an emotive hero film shot by Lance Acord.
The decision to get political and tackle racism has proven to be a smart business move for the sport brand. Despite a flurry of Darwin Award-worthy videos of unhappy idiots setting their Nikes alight while wearing them, the brand's stock value reached an all-time high in mid-September and the campaign has been credited with earning Nike $6bn