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Mike Rowe’s Brilliant Response to the Kaepernick Nike Ad

7 ¾ min

By now, you’ve probably heard all about Colin Kaepernick’s Nike ad, which ran as follows:

Following the ad, Nike stock plunged and conservatives had a heyday making knock-off memes, inserting the images of their favorite Democratic whipping boys, including Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the infamous Anthony Weiner.

Obamacare Nike Ad

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Nike Ad

Anthony Weiner Nike Ad


These jokes are understandable and have become a part of normal life in the charged political realm in which we live.

But sometimes someone rises above the fray in a calm, reasoned, and adult-like manner and helps us to see these political fracases for what they really are. In the case of the Kaepernick ad, that person is Mike Rowe.

According to a recent Facebook post, a fan of Rowe’s noticed his silence on the issue and asked for his thoughts. In response, Rowe wrote the following:

Nike's free to celebrate whomever they wish, and Kaepernick is entitled to his opinion - kneeling, standing, or lying down. But if I was going to put someone's face on a billboard - someone who epitomized bravery and sacrifice - I might have gone another way, especially this time of year. I might have gone with this guy - Tom Burnett.

Tom's last act on earth was one of the most courageous things imaginable. And his last words to his wife, Deena, are among the most inspiring I've ever heard. Those exact words are at the top of this page, and the bottom. They were spoken seventeen years ago, under conditions I hope to never experience. I'll never forget Tom's last words. I hope you won't either.

Transcript of Tom's Last Calls to Deena

6:27 a.m.( pacific time) First cell phone call from Tom to Deena

Deena: Hello
Tom: Deena
Deena: Tom, are you O.K.?
Tom: No, I’m not. I’m on an airplane that has been hijacked. 
Deena: Hijacked?
Tom: Yes, They just knifed a guy.
Deena: A passenger? 
Tom: Yes.
Deena: Where are you? Are you in the air?
Tom: Yes, yes, just listen. Our airplane has been hijacked. It’s United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. We are in the air. The hijackers have already knifed a guy, one of them has a gun, they are telling us there is a bomb on board, please call the authorities. He hung up.

6:31 Deena calls 911
6:34 The phone rang in on call waiting, Tom’s second cell phone call.

Deena: Hello
Tom: They’re in the cockpit. The guy they knifed is dead.
Deena: He’s dead?
Tom: Yes. I tried to help him, but I couldn’t get a pulse.
Deena: Tom, they are hijacking planes all up and down the east coast. They are taking them and hitting designated targets. They’ve already hit both towers of the World Trade Center.
Tom: They’re talking about crashing this plane. (a pause) … It’s a suicide mission…(he then tells people sitting around him)
Deena: Who are you talking to?
Tom: My seatmate. Do you know which airline is involved?
Deena: No, they don’t know if they’re commercial airlines or not. The newsreporters are speculating cargo planes, private planes and commercial. No one knows.
Tom: How many planes are there?
Deena: They’re not sure, at least three. Maybe more.
Tom: O.K….O.K….Do you know who is involved?
Deena: No.
Tom: We’re turning back toward New York. We’re going back to the World Trade Center. No, wait, we’re turning back the other way. We’re going south.
Deena: What do you see?
Tom: Just a minute, I’m looking. I don’t see anything, we’re over a rural area. It’s just fields. I’ve gotta go.

6:45 a.m. Third cell phone call from Tom to Deena

Tom: Deena
Deena: Tom, you’re O.K. (I thought at this point he had just survived the Pentagon plane crash).
Tom: No, I’m not.
Deena: They just hit the Pentagon.
Tom: (tells people sitting around him “They just hit the Pentagon.”)
Tom: O.K….O.K. What else can you tell me?
Deena: They think five airplanes have been hijacked. One is still on the ground. They believe all of them are commercial planes. I haven’t heard them say which airline, but all of them have originated on the east coast. 
Tom: Do you know who is involved?
Deena: No
Tom: What is the probability of their having a bomb on board? I don’t think they have one. I think they’re just telling us that for crowd control.
Deena: A plane can survive a bomb if it’s in the right place.
Tom: Did you call the authorities?
Deena: Yes, they didn’t know anything about your plane. 
Tom: They’re talking about crashing this plane into the ground. We have to do something. I’m putting a plan together.
Deena: Who’s helping you?
Tom: Different people. Several people. There’s a group of us. Don’t worry. I’ll call you back.

6:54 a.m. Fourth cell phone call to Tom to Deena

Deena: Tom?
Tom: Hi. Anything new?
Deena: No
Tom: Where are the kids?
Deena: They’re fine. They’re sitting at the table having breakfast. They’re asking to talk to you.
Tom: Tell them I’ll talk to them later.
Deena: I called your parents. They know your plane has been hijacked. 
Tom: Oh…you shouldn’t have worried them. How are they doing?
Deena: They’re O.K.. Mary and Martha are with them.
Tom: Good.

(a long quiet pause)

Tom: We’re waiting until we’re over a rural area. We’re going to take back the airplane.
Deena: No! Sit down, be still, be quiet, and don’t draw attention to yourself! (The exact words taught to me by Delta Airlines Flight Attendant Training).
Tom: Deena! If they’re going to crash this plane into the ground, we’re going to have do something!
Deena: What about the authorities?
Tom: We can’t wait for the authorities. I don’t know what they could do anyway.
It’s up to us. I think we can do it.
Deena: What do you want me to do?
Tom: Pray, Deena, just pray.

(after a long pause)

Deena: I love you.
Tom: Don’t worry, we’re going to do something...

(Transcript from the Tom Burnett Family Foundation.)


Is Rowe right? In an age where victimhood reigns supreme, have we glorified a type of courage, sacrifice, and heroism that is completely superficial? Is it time we remembered those who, with true, lasting courage, stood up and sacrificed all for the people and the country they loved?


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Image Credit: 

Flickr-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region CC BY 2.0, Twitter-Colin Kaepernick

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.

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NICELY SAID! Thanks for sharing this.


Good choice. Of the four flights, only United Flight 93 stopped and killed terrorists. Any of the 33 passengers or crew who were disarmed "for their safety" are above me. I add Mr. Rick Resorla who drilled people on getting out of building *long before* 9/11. See a problem - fix the problem - do not care what others think. Rick saved over 2,867 people - American and foreign in just a few short hours. Source: Thank you Mr. Rowe and your staff.


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CK: "There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality. There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards."


Why can’t both be celebrated? Why is acting with courage a competition? This is a very shortsighted post as are Mike Rowe’s thoughts. Sometimes it takes a lot more courage to stand against massive outcry of public opinion, if you know against the odds you are doing what is right in the long run. To verify this just check out any ol’ history book.


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K. R. V.
His thoughts are short sighted? Well due to the content of those thoughts he expressed, I can’t imagine what you could possibly give more credence to? You do realize there’s a huge difference between an overpaid politically pampered adult that earns a living throwing a ball for vast amounts of money. Than a few brave fellow Americans standing up to armed terrorist, saving untold lives and property from destruction, with actions of bravery you seem unable to fathom!
Your story conflates two different situations and you've made the choice of what is brave a binary choice. I don't think you're a very honest broker of information. You're article makes a false comparison. You clearly don't want to be labeled as racist, so you use Mike Rowe as the subject of your story to weigh in on what is brave. So instead of writing a piece where you can be held accountable for your ideas on the Black Lives Matter movement, Mike Rowe ends up making a false comparison between a literal life and death situation to a situation where a highly skilled athlete made a conscious decision and risked his career to bring attention to the issue of black lives. A more apt comparison might have been John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the '68 Olympics or Muhammad Ali, all athletes who were punished for their political views and message. Your story appeals to conservatives that sneer at BLM. Could you please challenge yourself next time and write something that with less hanging fruit?


Bullshit. Colin Kaepernick displayed no "courage". His career was over. He isn't smart enough to be an NFL quarterback, and once the other teams figures out how to defense his running, he was a has-been. He only discovered his "blackness" with the help of a radiacal Muslim BLM girlfriend, and then, he cashed in on a second, very lucrative career as a leftist provocateur. Kaepernick displays absolutely zero bravery.
Typical snowflake bring up Rowe's opinions on BLM is also a typical Liberal snowflake response & a perfect example of Liberal racism. At best...BLM = the black man's KKK.