#ICYMI: Natalia Petrzela for The Washington Post

The new Colin Kaepernick campaign captures the tension between Nike’s values and its reality

Nike ignited a firestorm with the announcement that it has re-signed an endorsement deal with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. During Thursday night’s Eagles-Falcons game, the company launched its new “Just Do It” ads starring the quarterback best known for being blackballed for popularizing “taking a knee” during the national anthem as a protest of racism in America. The new Kaepernick contract and ad have boosted Nike’s bottom line, while prompting a furious backlash from the president and his followers.

This new campaign fits with Nike’s painstakingly developed image as a forward thinking, innovative company that has evolved from selling sneakers out of co-founder Phil Knight’s trunk nearly half a century ago to promoting sports as an almost spiritual, self-actualizing exercise. Since 1988, the "Just Do It" ads in particular, featuring athletes including jogging folk hero Walt Stack, golfer Tiger Woods, tennis star Serena Williams and groups of girls gaining confidence through sport, have all cultivated this capacious sensibility.

But these inspirational branding efforts have often been out of step with the on-the-ground experience at Nike, where issues of equity have long dogged the corporate giant. Like all corporations, profit propels Nike, but the loftiness of its professed principles makes the disconnect with some of its internal practices seem especially stark.

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#ICYMI: Clint Smith for The Atlantic "The Lifelong Learning of Lifelong Inmates"

Lance leans over his desk, his round belly situating his body tightly between the wooden chair and plastic desk—both too small for someone with his girth. A collection of yellow notepad papers, their edges frayed after being torn from their original binding, wrestle alongside one another in his hands. It is a Saturday morning, and the classroom is small, and silent but for the friction of Lance’s papers and the grinding on the pen he bites out of nervous habit. His large fingers fiddle about the loose sheets, verifying that they’re in order as he mutters to himself, quietly reading his story aloud, restless in the anticipation of sharing with his classmates. Lance is often the first person to arrive in class, having rigorously prepared the entire week, perfecting his assignment so as to leave his peers impressed.

In this way, Lance is not so different from students I previously taught as a high-school teacher in Maryland. He is brimming with the sort of intellectual curiosity all teachers hope to see in their students. What is different is that this isn’t a high-school classroom: It’s a state prison in Massachusetts, and Lance is serving the 46th year of his sentence. Continue reading...

Check out more about Clint Smith and his works here.