Recuperative Wokeness: Nike and the Commodification of Potential for Social Change

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Eric L. Chan Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona, CA, USA

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Faye Linda Wachs Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona, CA, USA

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https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3081-0998 *
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Christian Garcia Clarmeont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, USA

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Beverly Teresa Cotter UC Davis, Davis, CA, USA

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Rojelio Muñoz UC Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA

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Faced with the increasingly politicized nature of sport and the need for resource accumulation under neoliberal capitalism, brands employ political stances to connect with consumers and expand customer bases. The ubiquity of social media in the present moment offers a unique opportunity to analyze corporate messaging and also audience response. Seven hundred and fifty YouTube comments from three Nike ads were coded. Overall commenters responded positively to Nike acting as a “representative” for progressivism in sport while failing to acknowledge larger social movements or Nike’s own questionable business practices. Using Debord’s theory of spectacle and Fisher’s capitalist realism, we discuss “recuperative wokeness,” our term for how these narratives serve to co-opt activism, and how this works to maintain the legitimacy of neoliberal market system.

Chan is now at Boston College, Boston, MA, USA.

Wachs (flwachs@cpp.edu) is corresponding author, https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3081-0998

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