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NIKE ad on racism & bullying in Japan sparks controversy

A Nike video advert highlighting bullying and racial discrimination in Japan has triggered a fierce national debate throughout the country, including tearful praise and even calls to boycott the company, BBC News reports.

The two-minute film titled Keep Moving: Yourself, the Future / The Future Isn’t Waiting depicts three teenage female soccer players of various ethnicities who each experience bullying or racial discrimination by Japanese society: One is Zainichi (Korean), one is mixed-race (half Japanese and half Black), and one is Japanese struggling under intense parental and academic pressure.

The ad is similar to issues tennis champ Naomi Osaka has raised.

Released one week ago, the ad already has over 25 million views and 80,000 shares. But from SoraNews24‘s collection of comments from Japanese blogging sites Jin and Hachima Kikou, the divide over the ad could hardly be more polar:

“This is amazing. I feel like I’ve never seen a commercial that cuts into the issue of living in Japan and minorities in Japanese advertising,” one supportive comment says.

This made me cry. It would be wonderful if we could stop young people having thoughts like this,” says another.

“So good — I’m always buying Nike because of ads like this!”

On the other hand, critics of the ad have said the following:

“Is Japan really such a country full of discrimination? It feels like you’re creating a false impression of Japan.”

“It’s not just Japan — discrimination exists in other countries too.”

Many Japanese Twitter users also shared their critiques of Nike, an American company’s, approach to the topic of racism in another country:

“Japan has Japanese problems, but the only solution is the Japanese way. Since this video is a copy of how to cut out American social problems, the solution derived from it also becomes the American way, and it becomes a complete orientalist consumption that the actual Japan is ignored and overrun,” one user writes.

“Dear executives in Nike. We Japanese are not familiar with this kind of ad. Rather, WE HATE THIS. Did you hear from local employees’ opinion? Localization is very important. Do not think from US culture. Follow the opinion from the employees. I would like not to hate your company,” says another.

“I don’t think your company, which is profiting from Uighur forced labor, is qualified to talk about hate and human rights in the first place,” says a third.

According to CNN, a spokesperson for Nike Japan explained the ad was inspired by testimonials of real athletes who struggle to feel accepted for who they are.

“The objective of this film is to champion sport as a vehicle to empower youth to create change they want to see. Discrimination is a global issue and it exists around the world. The testimonials of these real athletes inspired us to take action and speak more openly about discrimination,” they said.

Tiffany Rachel, a 22-year-old African American university student who’s lived most of her life in Japan told South China Morning Post that the Nike ad could encourage young people to talk more about race. “Nike is setting a good example with this ad, [especially] for the younger generations who are more open to these ideas,” she said.

According to South China Morning post, the company was unable to immediately respond to the criticisms it received, but Nike seems to be standing by the ad with the following message:

“We have long listened to minority voices, supported and spoken for causes that fit our values. We believe sports have the power to show what a better world looks like, to bring people together and encourage action in their respective communities.”


動かしつづける。自分を。未来を。The Future Isn’t Waiting | Nike by NIKE JAPAN via YouTube

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