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Kevin Durant redraws the lines in Nike’s new powerful “Equality” campaign

He is joined by fellow NBA superstar LeBron James as well as top-tier athletes from other sports.

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Kevin Durant in Nike’s new “Equality” commercial.

Against a somber, mostly urban, black-and-white setting, Warriors superstar Kevin Durant joins other star athletes to help Nike issue a powerful message: “Equality should have no boundaries.”

Narrator Michael B. Jordan, star of the movies Creed and Fruitvale Station, asks: “Is this the land history promised?”

Sure, the question is rhetorical, but it is certainly one worth answering.

The answer would be, “NO” — and a hard one at that.

Racism and discrimination still exist. And, troublingly, they have emerged from the woodwork and strutted into the center of the room. The racist taunts Durant endured during last week’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City serve as one example.

Even more disturbing, however, is the ever-climbing number of hate crimes in this country and the steady proliferation of hate groups. In the month following the November 8, 2016 election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency, more than 700 hate crimes or “bias-related” incidents were reported.

Here’s the breakdown, by group and number of incidents reported, during the month following the election:

  • Anti-immigrant — 315
  • Anti-black — 221
  • Anti-Muslim — 112
  • Anti-LGBT — 109

(There were also 26 Anti-Trump incidents, including six that were also categorized as Anti-white, along with two Anti-white incidents not related to Trump.)

Source: Southern Poverty Law Center.

It is important to remember that these numbers represent individual human beings who also love their friends and families, who also have hopes and dreams, who also want what is best for their children and communities.

Given that Trump ran his campaign on two primary talking points — 1) building a wall along the US-Mexico border to keep Mexicans out; and 2) banning Muslims from the country — it is easy to understand why people who are assumed to be immigrants or Muslims were targeted with such frequency. African Americans, however, have been subjected to racism and racial abuse throughout the country’s history, but perhaps it only took Trump peeling the top off the can of hate to embolden those who had previously kept their racism under wraps.

In the commercial, Jordan’s narration continues:

“This field of play. Here, within these lines, on this concrete court, this patch of turf. Here, you’re defined by your actions. Not your looks or beliefs. Equality should have no boundaries. The bonds we find here should run past these lines. Opportunity should not discriminate. The ball should bounce the same for everyone. Work should outshine color. If we can be equals here, we can be equals everywhere.”

Clearly, these are not the times we live in right nowyet.

Matters of equality are not limited to skin color or religion; gender is included, too. Donald J. Trump has repeatedly belittled women for their looks if he finds them to be unattractive, and objectified those he considers beautiful. Given that he was elected to the presidency despite being caught on video boasting of sexually assaulting women — grabbing them “by the pussy” without their consent — it comes as no surprise that the group to experience the steepest increase in Trump-related bias incidents is women.

Southern Poverty Law Center

Additionally, once-marginalized white nationalist, Neo Nazi and other hate groups have been legitimized by this president because he has filled his cabinet with people who hold and espouse white supremacist views, such as Steven Bannon. The number of hate groups in the US soared to 917 in 2016, up from 784 in 2014 — with the all-time peak being 1,108 hate groups in 2011.

Interestingly, the number of hate groups in the country reached its highest peak during Barack Obama’s presidency, and since 2015, the number of hate groups specifically targeting Muslims has skyrocketed 197%.

The 90-second Nike ad features the following athletes:

  • Serena Williams: Currently ranked #1 in the WTA; winner of a record 23 Grand Slam singles titles — the most by any woman in tennis history.
  • LeBron James: Four-time NBA MVP; three-time NBA champion; three-time Finals MVP.
  • Kevin Durant: Former NBA Rookie of the Year, MVP and scoring champion; Olympic gold medalist.
  • Victor Cruz: NFL wide receive with a career 303 touchdowns.
  • Megan Rapinoe: Olympic gold medalist with US Women’s National Soccer Team.
  • Dalilah Muhammad: Olympic gold medalist in the Women’s 400m Hurdles.
  • Gabby Douglas: Individual All-Around Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics (2012); team gold-medal winner (2016).

Most of the athletes in the commercial have spoken out on justice and equality issues in the past, including James and Durant, who are very active with charitable organizations supporting under-served communities; Rapinoe, who is the only white athlete in any sport to come out with strong endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement and kneel during the National Anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick; and Douglas, who has spoken out about online bullying, especially of women regarding appearance.

The athletes and others sprayed white paint to extend the boundaries of the commercial’s courts and fields ... over grass, down sidewalks, along stairs, across gravel streets ... to infinity.

If, only — and when?

Currently, the playing field, or court, may be level between the lines, but much work is needed to create equality outside of them. Thankfully, Nike — with a long history of dogged commitment to equality issues — continues to use its platform to promote equality and set the example for what corporate responsibility ought to be.

The ad was directed by Melina Matsoukas, best known for her work on Beyonce’s “Formation” video, for which she won a Grammy Award. Alicia Keys performs a rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

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