The swoosh and terrorism

American popular culture is dominant worldwide.  Many people outside the U.S. have heard about Colin Kaepernick and his anthem protest.

Lower-class young men in the Middle East like to wear track suits and other sports gear with logos.  They see traditional garb as dowdy, while the tailored white thobe of the Gulf Arabs represents a different social stratum.  Track suits are comfortable, sleek, and classy.  Fashionistas will disagree, but there's a kind of formality in a track suit.  

Terrorists come from this vast population of disaffected young Middle Eastern men, and they wear track suits, too.  A former colleague who has just returned from the Middle East commented that he's seeing a lot more Nike swooshes lately.  He discussed the swoosh-wearing with some young men in a coffee shop, and they confirmed that the Nike swoosh meant an endorsement of Colin Kaepernick's American national anthem protest. 

A forthright Israeli friend also said he's also seen more Nike swooshes on thugs there lately and said the connection is "obvious." 

A renowned Iranian expert on anti-Americanism, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, has voiced his support of Kaepernick's protest.  While some see the protest as a very American display of free speech, Ahmadinejad doesn't care about free speech.  He and I seem to agree that the protest is simply anti-American.  

This is not CIA reporting, of course.  This is purely anecdotal – observations of a few people and a conversation with some young men in a coffee shop are not scientific data.  These are not the sophisticated data that Nike's marketing geniuses compiled before making their decision.  American media opinion seems to be that Nike's Kaepernick campaign is brilliant.  The campaign may lose a few American patriots, but it will gain vast new markets among the billions who would like to see the United States taken down a notch.   

Nike must surely know about the Fresno State University football mascot, the Bulldog.  The Bulldog mascot has been appropriated by a Fresno street gang.  The street gang Bulldogs wear red Fresno State jerseys.  They bark at each other, like bulldogs, for recognition and to build esprit.  They call each other "Dog."  There's a genius to it.  How can police stop a man in Fresno for wearing Bulldog attire as gang colors?  He could be a loyal Fresno State fan.  Sales of Fresno State gear increased tenfold since the gang formed.

It is inevitable that terrorists will take their pre-attack photos wearing Nike outfits like a uniform.  Post-attack photos will show blood and bits of brains on the swooshes.  The effect on the brand will be hard to calculate.  But Nike's marketing team is smart, and its organizers think of everything, so maybe they will make the Nike brand even edgier, with increased sales.  All publicity is good publicity.

In his autobiography, Nike cofounder Phil Knight wrote that the granddaddy of national anthem protests, the fist-raising at the 1968 Olympics, was a fine and admirable thing.  Knight surely approved the decision to make Kaepernick the company's frontman.  Nike's other cofounder, Bill Bowerman, was an American war hero, but he died 20 years ago.  

Business schools will write case studies on Nike's Kaepernick campaign, and we won't know the final outcome for years.  No brand I'm aware of has ever sought to define itself so aggressively in politics. 

It would be nice if the wearing of logos disappeared altogether.  Future anthropologists may look at our era and wonder, with amusement, what people were thinking when they adorned themselves in other people's advertisements. 

Ishmael Jones is a former CIA officer and author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture.

American popular culture is dominant worldwide.  Many people outside the U.S. have heard about Colin Kaepernick and his anthem protest.

Lower-class young men in the Middle East like to wear track suits and other sports gear with logos.  They see traditional garb as dowdy, while the tailored white thobe of the Gulf Arabs represents a different social stratum.  Track suits are comfortable, sleek, and classy.  Fashionistas will disagree, but there's a kind of formality in a track suit.  

Terrorists come from this vast population of disaffected young Middle Eastern men, and they wear track suits, too.  A former colleague who has just returned from the Middle East commented that he's seeing a lot more Nike swooshes lately.  He discussed the swoosh-wearing with some young men in a coffee shop, and they confirmed that the Nike swoosh meant an endorsement of Colin Kaepernick's American national anthem protest. 

A forthright Israeli friend also said he's also seen more Nike swooshes on thugs there lately and said the connection is "obvious." 

A renowned Iranian expert on anti-Americanism, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, has voiced his support of Kaepernick's protest.  While some see the protest as a very American display of free speech, Ahmadinejad doesn't care about free speech.  He and I seem to agree that the protest is simply anti-American.  

This is not CIA reporting, of course.  This is purely anecdotal – observations of a few people and a conversation with some young men in a coffee shop are not scientific data.  These are not the sophisticated data that Nike's marketing geniuses compiled before making their decision.  American media opinion seems to be that Nike's Kaepernick campaign is brilliant.  The campaign may lose a few American patriots, but it will gain vast new markets among the billions who would like to see the United States taken down a notch.   

Nike must surely know about the Fresno State University football mascot, the Bulldog.  The Bulldog mascot has been appropriated by a Fresno street gang.  The street gang Bulldogs wear red Fresno State jerseys.  They bark at each other, like bulldogs, for recognition and to build esprit.  They call each other "Dog."  There's a genius to it.  How can police stop a man in Fresno for wearing Bulldog attire as gang colors?  He could be a loyal Fresno State fan.  Sales of Fresno State gear increased tenfold since the gang formed.

It is inevitable that terrorists will take their pre-attack photos wearing Nike outfits like a uniform.  Post-attack photos will show blood and bits of brains on the swooshes.  The effect on the brand will be hard to calculate.  But Nike's marketing team is smart, and its organizers think of everything, so maybe they will make the Nike brand even edgier, with increased sales.  All publicity is good publicity.

In his autobiography, Nike cofounder Phil Knight wrote that the granddaddy of national anthem protests, the fist-raising at the 1968 Olympics, was a fine and admirable thing.  Knight surely approved the decision to make Kaepernick the company's frontman.  Nike's other cofounder, Bill Bowerman, was an American war hero, but he died 20 years ago.  

Business schools will write case studies on Nike's Kaepernick campaign, and we won't know the final outcome for years.  No brand I'm aware of has ever sought to define itself so aggressively in politics. 

It would be nice if the wearing of logos disappeared altogether.  Future anthropologists may look at our era and wonder, with amusement, what people were thinking when they adorned themselves in other people's advertisements. 

Ishmael Jones is a former CIA officer and author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture.