Nike Japan ad on racism and bullying spurs fiery debate and backlash online

Nike Japan's latest ad is causing a stir online for possibly painting Japanese consumers in a negative light. Several netizens called out the brand, stating that it was promoting racism and bullying through its "Keep moving: Yourself, the future" commercial. Launched in a country that is widely known for being homogenous, the commercial is based on the testimony of real-life athletes who, like many young people today, suffer from being unable to accept themselves as they are. The ad focuses on three teenage girls who are subject to discrimination and bullying. However, they connect through soccer and overcome their worries while gaining confidence and experiencing fun.

In one of the scenes, the biracial girl is surrounded by other fellow female students who seemed to be intimidating her and pulling her hair. Another girl in the video is of Korean descent and receives stares from strangers while walking on the road when she wears her hanbok (a traditional Korean clothing). Meanwhile in another scene, a girl is being surrounded by her classmates who attempt to steal her bag. Thereafter, her worksheets are being flung in the air and she hurriedly flees the classroom. Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka and professional soccer player Yuki Nagasato also made special appearances in the ad.

At the time of writing, the video had 21k retweets, 19.8k quoted tweets and 83.4k likes on Twitter. Although Nike probably had good intentions when it first launched the video, several netizens online declared they will boycott the brand, with one adding that "Nike is over". Some netizens also said that the "one-sided" commercial intentionally paints the Japanese in a bad light and they are thinking of discarding their Nike sneakers. 

Meanwhile, one netizen said Nike is also promoting discrimination by highlighting the issue. On the other hand, there are a few netizens who pointed out that the ad was created to eliminate racial discrimination, with some adding that children of different nationalities can be discriminatory too. Nike Japan declined to comment.

Separately, Nike Japan's senior marketing director Barbara Guine said in a statement on its website that the company has long listened to, supported, and spoken for a cause that fits Nike's values. And that is to show what a better world is for sports and individuals. "We believe we have the power to work together to encourage action in each community," she added.

Nike is known for supporting diversity and inclusion. In June this year, Nike US committed US$40 million over the next four years to support the Black community. Two years ago, it appointed former National Football League player Colin Kaepernick to front its 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign. This also resulted in unhappiness among many US consumers who protested against the decision by burning Nike's products. The brand, however, was unfazed and pushed on with a short film titled "Dream Crazy" narrated by Kaepernick.

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