When I saw this commercial, I was a little troubled by Nike's borrowing of the black church to use as a symbol to sell shoes. That clapping, dancing, and standing up isn't a song-and-dance routine; it's how many black Christians express their love and devotion to Jesus. On one level, it could be seen as Nike telling young black Christians to shift their allegiances to Lebron. However, I figured I was reading too much into the commercial, and moved on.
Next came the Witness commercial with the tagline "We are all witnesses".
Where does that tagline come from, you might ask? It's a near-direct quote from Acts 3 of the Bible, which refers to the disciples being witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
You might argue that that's a mere coincidence...but note the end of the commercial above. It says "Believe at nike.com." Why did they choose the word "believe"? Why not "watch" or "enjoy"? This once again represents a deliberate attempt by Nike to associate Lebron James with Christian imagery. In this case, they are essentially equating Lebron James to be the equal of Jesus Christ. Far out, isn't it? Too crazy to be true! I once again thought I was over-reacting, though. It had to be coincidence, right? But wait, this is the second time Nike has done something like this...
Then, I received my latest copy of SLAM magazine, with a cover story on Lebron James. Inside the magazine's front cover was this ad:
That thought is the exact opposite of Matthew 7:7-8, in which Jesus encourages his followers that he is a generous God who will provide for them. It reads as follows
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
No longer content with treading on the edge of blasphemy to sell shoes and worship the almighty dollar, Nike kicks the church door down with this ad. The first time it's funny, the second time it's creepy, the third time it shows a deep lack of respect for both religion and the customer. It's clear to me that the Nike corporation will steal any religious or racial imagery that could help them sell a few more pairs of shoes. Doubt me? Then take a look at the Nike ad that got banned in China for showing Lebron overcoming Chinese symbols and gods:
Nike is no longer marketing Lebron as an athlete, or even a role model. They are marketing Lebron as a god stronger than your cultural gods, whether they be Jesus or Confucius. I would be upset at this god marketing, but I don't think that Jesus is worrying about the competition's strength until Lebron can muster enough moral authority to sign a petition on Darfur. But that's just me.
Add this latest offense to what Nike's already done in stealing principles from feminism and using images of pit bulls to sell shoes, and there's plenty of reasons for people of any belief system to buy Reebok or Adidas. I have a feeling such an action would be the only ritual or belief that Nike will respect.