Bryce Sealock. | Hillsdale college chargers.

Recent con­tro­versy over Nike’s new cam­paign fea­turing Colin Kaepernick has reopened old wounds — stirring reac­tions even in the small town of Hillsdale.

“It’s a little dis­heart­ening now that we have political agendas asso­ciated with clothing,” said Junior Bryce Sealock, a kicker on the Hillsdale College football team. “I’m still going to wear Nike, mainly because it costs a lot to buy more clothes, and I don’t think it’s gotten to the point where you can say Colin Kaepernick is now the fanboy of Nike.”

Uday Singh, Junior Defensive Lineman, likes that Nike made Kaepernick their spokesman. “It feels like Nike is trying to com­pensate him for the game checks he lost along the way,” Singh said. “I really liked the ad they made with him. I thought it was well done.”

In August 2016, the backup quar­terback for the San Fran­cisco 49ers began protesting the national anthem. Kaepernick began by sitting on the bench while everyone else stood. In the games to follow, he pro­gressed to kneeling during the “The Star Spangled Banner.” Kaepernick said that he protested because of the oppression of people of color and racial issues regarding police bru­tality.

“I’m going to con­tinue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said in a press con­ference back in August 2016, when his protest caught national attention. “When there’s sig­nif­icant change and I feel that flag rep­re­sents what it’s sup­posed to rep­resent, and this country is rep­re­senting people the way that it’s sup­posed to, I’ll stand.”

Since then, Amer­icans have had more than enough time to dissect and debate the con­tro­versy — even U.S. Pres­ident Donald Trump has expressed his dis­ap­proval of the protest.

On Sept. 3, 2018, Nike announced their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” cam­paign fea­turing Kaepernick and the slogan, “Believe in some­thing. Even if it means sac­ri­ficing every­thing.” It received both wide­spread support and backlash on social media; some people running to Nike’s aide and others quickly burning their products.

The Hillsdale College’s head football coach, Keith Otterbein, took a stance on the con­tro­versy.

“It is absolutely inap­pro­priate to dis­re­spect our flag,” Otterbein said. “For me, that action of taking a knee during our national anthem dis­re­spects the flag, and the flag rep­re­sents all those fam­ilies who have lost loved ones who have made the ultimate sac­rifice to give us the freedoms that we have.”

As far as the recent devel­op­ments in the Kaepernick story, Otterbein said he is sur­prised that Nike would choose Kaepernick as their poster boy.

“I don’t know why Nike would choose to stir it up anymore,” Otterbein said. “He hasn’t played in like two years. To me it’s not even a story.”

Otterbein is grateful that Hillsdale’s football team is spon­sored by Adidas and not Nike.

“I would struggle with that, that’s a very poor choice by a company in terms of an identity,” Otterbein said. “I don’t know why you would want to asso­ciate yourself with someone, who, in my opinion, has dis­re­spected our country and our flag.”

Marc Lemerand, head coach of the Hillsdale High School football team, had a dif­ferent stance.

“The great thing about America is the rights guar­anteed by our Con­sti­tution,” Lemerand said, “whether that’s the right to protest Nike’s adver­tising choices or the right of Mr. Kaepernick to protest.”

Neither Otterbein nor Lemerand have had players that knelt during the national anthem. Otterbein has not addressed his team in regards to the national anthem protests because he frankly doesn’t think it will ever be a problem at Hillsdale College.

“Here, there is just so much about team, team 126. 126 years of Charger football in the tra­dition,” Otterbein said. “One of our core words is tra­dition, another is char­acter, and the other one is service. Those three words all speak to not dis­playing the indi­vid­u­ality of seeking attention by taking a knee or doing some­thing to draw attention to oneself.”

Sealock said that although no Hillsdale College players have taken a knee, a few of the schools they have played in the past have stayed in the locker room or had players who knelt during the national anthem. Both Sealock and Singh agreed that if Nike spon­sored Hillsdale, most of the players would not be bothered by it, but some parents, alumni, and admin­is­trators might think oth­erwise.

“I still wear my Nike gloves,” Singh said. “I know there are other guys that still wear Nike gloves and cleats.”

Sealock said that Kaepernick is using his fame and fortune to promote himself, but he doesn’t fully knock Nike for their actions.

“I don’t nec­es­sarily have a problem with the Nike com­mercial because the message is actually decent,” Sealock said. “They ref­erence a whole bunch of ath­letes who came from nothing, worked hard, per­se­vered, and became great. The problem is that Kaepernick is trying to equate himself to those ath­letes.”

On the other hand, Singh says that Kaepernick is both deserving and appro­priate for the Nike cam­paign.

“He trained his whole life to be a football player, and he has the talent to still be on an NFL roster,” Singh said. “But he tried to speak out against a social issue and has been deemed too much of a dis­traction for any team to bring in.”

Sealock said that “charity work to raise awareness but also to ini­tiate change” is a better way that Kaepernick could rep­resent his values. “Showing the American pop­ulace the problems that exist through his deeds will win over far more people than attacking a symbol that means far more to a lot of people,” he said.

Singh noted that though he thinks there are better ways to protest, Kaepernick’s actions were non­vi­olent.

“The whole point was to have a con­ver­sation about racial injus­tices, which we’re still talking about today,” Singh said. “I think there were players that jumped on kneeling just for attention, but Kaepernick gave a million back to the com­mu­nities so I think he talks the talk and walks the walk.”

Both coaches Otterbein and Lemerand agreed that football will rise above the divi­sions and that the recent con­tro­versy doesn’t take away from the heart of the game.

“Time heals all wounds,” Otterbein said. “I think even­tually it will all dis­appear.”

Lemerand men­tioned that his players par­tic­ipate in the com­munity through events like “Victory Day” and “Area 29 Twi-Light 5k” and he doesn’t think the game is affected by the con­tro­versy.

“Our goal is to help kids,” Lemerand said. “We use football as our vehicle.”