Nike Commercial

This is a Nike advertisement from a few years back. When I first saw it I was honestly inspired; the commercial’s tagline “What’s your excuse?” really made me feel like I my lack of initiative was the reason I didn’t make the JV basketball team. But after reading Longmore’s work, in particular Chapter 7 “Screening Stereotypes”, I look at Nike’s attempt to motivate it’s athletic customers to be active and determined from a completely new perspective.

I find that the commercial conveys the message that the success or failure of a person with a disability is a direct result of the choices, confidences, and pluck of the disabled individual. Nike is clearly banking of the idea that if a disabled person has an unyielding positive attitude and diligent attributes they can undoubtedly become successful. If this guy can make it to the gym and practice, there is no reason why a fully functional normal couch potato Adidas wearing dude like yourself can’t.

The commercial perpetuates the stereotype of the “successful handicap”; who is the one who can emotionally cope and overlook limitations, and that their achievement is a model of personal adjustment for all disabled people. Granted Nike is just trying to sell exercise gear, but the video reflects our culture of stigmatization that the disabled can overcome adversity through mere self-adjustment and courage.

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6 thoughts on “Nike Commercial

  1. After reading Longmore’s Screening Stereotypes, I find myself viewing this commercial differently than before. Like you, I do agree that this commercial conveys a negative message of choice being the dominant factor when it comes to success or failure. In class, we discussed the negative stereotypes media can cause in regards to disability. One thing that stood out to me was when we were talking about how stereotypes limit empathy and real life understanding of disability. I’ve actually witnessed the harmful effect of this stereotype this semester in one of my classes. In my Yoga class, my instructor was talking about disabled people and how she absolutely hated how they used canes and wheelchairs because the bend of their back was a bad sight to see as a yoga instructor. She acted like people with disabilities who used canes and wheelchairs had a choice and they were just too lazy to just get up and walk. In order to elucidate her argument further, she made everyone in the class mimic the way disabled people use canes and wheelchairs. Most of the class was too appalled to react but there were some who actually did follow her orders. I’m unsure if there were anyone in the class with a disability but regardless, the act itself was offensive and it was prompted by the perception of disability. Movies that promote the idea that disability is a choice affects those who are easily influenced. Like this commercial, my yoga teacher was already trying to sell the idea that the disabled can overcome their adversity by just standing up and walking. The negative stigmatization of disabled people shows how harmful media can be when it comes to stereotyping and my yoga teacher is a prime example of it.

  2. It is interesting that your yoga instructor finds “the bend of their back was a bad sight to see”. That immediately reminded me of the Roger Lund piece we went over. He highlights that in the 18th century many people found that disability was “a disruption in the sensory field of the observer” or their “deviation” from symmetry that only naturally evoked a repulsive response from other “normal” members of society. Unfortunately it seems like many still hold the same belief today. Our view of the disabled as in pain or weak possibly makes us inextricably link them to a state of unpleasantness and ugliness.

    As we dig deeper to the roots of disability prejudice and discrimination, I’m finding that the reasons being used to justify the presuppositions of the disabled are becoming more superficial and ridiculous. But than again what do you expect of the leaders of Anglo saxon thought in the 17th/18th century; they believed pretty much anyone who did not resemble them in shape, color, and culture was undeniably inferior.

  3. Well, as for the 18th century, I’d say that the fact that there were — for example — white English antiracist authors like Samuel Johnson and Tom Paine, whose ideas any literate person could get access to, makes the prejudices of others on the grounds of color and culture harder to excuse. ‘Cause it’s not like Jefferson or Hume had never heard more progressive views than their own! But yeah, the idea of disability as an aspect of human diversity, not so much there.

    As for the eugenic yoga instructor who would basically like the Ugly Laws reinstated, very wtf.

  4. Yeah, Anna? I couldn’t process my disgust with yoga teacher, so I mentioned the story on facebook, not revealing where I’d heard it; and one friend commented, “If this teacher does not own the space where this class took place, I really, really, really hope this person reported it to whomever manages or owns the space where this happened. Such incredible ableism. Such incredible bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination. And I went and looked up those words again, and yes, I do mean them, and I mean each of them.”

  5. As I mentioned in class yesterday, I have also encountered problems with a professor at CCC in NJ (where I went before Temple) who was openly discriminatory in class. He often referred to women in his anecdotes as “this b**ch,” and transgender women as “not real women.” For longer than I am proud of, I ignored it and tried to get through class without making any waves. Eventually, my anger got to be too much and I wrote to the head of the department both in email form and in a printed letter which I put directly in his mailbox. In my mind, that sent the message that I was going to be heard.

    In my letter (which I managed to dig up a copy of), I kept in mind that it is not the head of the department’s fault. I placed the facts of the situation first, followed by a brief explanation of why it is offensive, and then with my personal reaction. In my closing, I said that I was not trying to make trouble for the professor, but that I did think the matter should be taken seriously. I asked to be contacted and to be assured that action would be taken and that his behavior would not continue.

    About a week later, my professor apologized to the entire class. He explained that it came to his attention that his stories had offended some and promised that he would not tell them anymore. Yes, there was a slight hint of resentment in his apology, but the stories stopped and I still walked away with an A in the class. I sincerely doubt that he knew for sure it was me, but I hadn’t exactly been quiet about my distaste before I sent the email, so I’m sure he suspected.

    Of course, every situation is unique, so I am not trying to push the way I handled my situation onto you. You have to handle it in a way you feel most comfortable with. Confrontation can be difficult, but I always regret the times I kept my mouth shut more than the times I spoke out. Good luck!

  6. I know that this post was like so last month. I was going to comment on it a while back, but after reading everyones’ consensus, I decided against it. However, I must be feeling a bit rebellious tonight, because here I am. I don’t quite agree that this commercial abuses the stereotype of the “successful handicap.” After watching the video, I wasn’t left with any strong negative feelings (that is of course until I read the story about the yoga teacher). I suppose this stems from the fact that I’ve never taken Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan to only apply within the athletic realm. I know. I know. Nike is an athletic wear company and in this commercial Matt Scott is dribbling a basketball. However, I’ve always felt that the vagueness of “it” purposefully leaves room to refer to anything that one desires in life and can reach, yet is just lacking the motivation to grab it. With this in mind, I didn’t interpret the commercial as saying that “if a disabled person has an unyielding positive attitude and diligent attributes they can undoubtedly become successful.” Instead, I took away the point that with the right attitude, any person (disabled or not) can take control of their life in the way that they individually have the potential/desire to. In this case, Matt Scott’s dream was obviously to play basketball. However, I don’t believe the commercial is limiting it’s audience to merely this type of success. Nike isn’t saying that all disabled people have to work hard enough to become basketball studs. “Success” is something very different to each and every individual and I think Nike clearly recognizes that and respects that. In fact, I think Nike was very strategic in walking the line of not drowning their commercial in the stereotypical disabled “hero” or “villain”. In choosing to not reveal the wheelchair until the end, Nike was able to successfully intertwine disabled and non disabled on an equal playing field where we should all be striving for something that realistically pushes us — regardless of how small or how large that thing may be. And even after reading Longmore’s work… that’s still pretty inspiring to me.

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