On Monday, Nike announced a new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. There were plentiful complaints and reports of widespread burning of Nike clothing.
There does appear to be one prominent video of Nike shoes being burned. I fully expect there may be more but they’re not easy to find. Rather than video upon video and picture upon picture of burning Nikes, a slew of people are found demonstrating their superiority by mocking the people burning shoes and other clothing. There are many instances of consumers voicing displeasure and indicating they may not purchase Nike products in the future. To read through the comments, though, they may as well not exist. All of the “conservatives” are burning expensive items.
Still, even if it’s being misrepresented for attempted emotional and political gain, the effort to boycott does exist.
On the other side of the aisle there’s the boycott of In-n-Out Burger, initiated last week at the behest of the Chairman of the Democrat Party in California, Eric Bauman. After watching the boycott have no significant effect on the fast food chain, Bauman has called it off.
It wasn’t merely the lack or results that inspired him to end his effort, though; was the exposure of utter hypocrisy. The stated reason for the boycott had been donations to the Republican party; a small bit of investigation had revealed that the burger chain had given extensively to the Democrats as well.
Another recent boycott that combines elements of NFL sponsorship and fast food was Papa John’s Pizza. Anger over comments taken out of context by the founder and CEO, John Schnatter, caused him to lose his position and have his image taken off of all company advertising.
There had been a figurative target on Schnatter’s back, however, since he had previously spoken out about the sales drop associated with a boycott of the NFL over a kneeling controversy initiated by… Colin Kaepernick.
The associative nature of the economic strikes isn’t coincidental. Those four were selected from dozens of examples available, large and small, that have been attempted in recent years.
The reason for all of these boycotts is simple: they work.
At least in theory. In practice, boycotts work in the same way that exercise works to keep one fit; any level of participation has an effect, but no significant results are seen without commitment. The NFL boycott has been mildly effective at reducing revenue to the league, but not enough to convince them to change their positions in an enforceable way. The Papa John’s boycott was likely far less influential than the fact that the company had faced steeply declining profits… the profit decline had been what initiated his controversy in the first place. The In-n-Out boycott was a dismal failure as Democrats refused to take enough umbrage to give up a local favorite over a perceived inequity in donations to politicians the rank and file generally dislike anyway. The Nike boycott’s future is uncertain, but not enough anger has been generated to indicate it will be particularly successful.
Without a sustained effort by large percentages of consumers who would normally purchase a product, boycotts don’t work. They’re simply a mechanism to gain some attention for the people most prominently calling for them.
And that brings me around to another piece of boycott hypocrisy. Christian Siriano.
For those who don’t know who he is, the man is a fashion designer of some minor prominence. He was recently interviewed by the Daily Beast and asked if he’d design a dress for one of the Trump women.
“No, it wouldn’t make sense. I always find it funny when people ask that. I’m a young gay fashion designer. Why would I work with them if they don’t support me? If they think I shouldn’t be able to get married, why would I dress their wife or whatever?”
Melania Trump, Siriano said, was “super-chic,” but he couldn’t design for her. It would be a violation of his political principles.
The obvious correlation here is to the Masterpiece Cakeshop. People will find distinctions to explain away their position reversals, but ultimately in both cases, they are boycotts of one: a person refusing to participate in financial transactions.
It’s amazing to see, though, that in all of these examples positions have been decided not on the merit of a principle but rather on which side benefits. Those who are cheering the fashion designer jeered the baker; those who supported the baker are heaping derision upon the designer. For every example, there is a counterexample. A consistent set of principles would reduce much of the discord, but it seems that few wish for that.
Someone should probably point out to Siriano, though, that none of the Trumps have asked for his designs. Boycotts can work both ways.