Slave plantation images in Nissan Heisman House Ad?
While watching an NFL game on Sunday, I was stunned by a car commercial. Just when you think Black lives have worth, you see an ad that glorifies the Antebellum South, whistling Dixie Land and Gone with the Wind. My question to Nissan and the ad agency: Who approved of this racist and oppressive promotional campaign demeaning athletes and people of color? Who gave it the green light?
Adding insult to injury, the automaker has a companion website to the television commercial, TheHeismanHouse.com. On the website, the Heisman winners strike stereotypical minstrel-man poses quite demeaning if you understand the historical context of America’s original sin.
The commercial starts with one of the many Heisman winners driving to a massive, old and disheveled, mansion resembling a plantation from the TV series “Roots.” As Baltimore Ravens Quarterback, Lamar Jackson (wearing his Louisville jersey) approaches the sprawling estate of the Heisman House, he is puzzled by the neglected grounds saying, “What the heck happened here?” After pulling into the driveway, he knocks on the door and Tim Tebow answers in a peculiar Father Time meets Rip Van Winkle outfit in full overgrown beard. Jackson reminds Tebow that it’s Heisman time. This awakens the slumber of other Heisman winners including Mark Ingram in a second-floor bedroom, shouting, “It’s Heisman Time.”
This prompts the Loverboy song, “Working for the Weekend,” and the scene cuts to 3 mascots doing domestic work. The Louisville Cardinal is making beds; the Texas Longhorn is vacuuming, and the Oregon Duck is cleaning the kitchen.
Here’s the insult. The great Tennessee Titans running back, Derrick Henry, is outside cutting grass, while Baker Mayfield is creating a menu, casually sauntering the halls. Former Oregon Duck, Marcus Mariota tells the Nissan wheels that he’ll get another toothbrush for them. Kyler Murray, the Aggie turned Sooner, stands on a helmet and feverishly dusts off all of the trophies.
Micro insults continue as the commercial comes to a close. Cameras cut back to Derrick Henry meticulously clipping the Heisman hedge sculpture, and chauffer Charles Woodson, with Wolverine jersey, impatiently waiting for Mayfield to get in the car. “Come on man, I ain’t got all day.” Woodson is the driver and the aloof Mr. Mayfield is flippantly oblivious to Woodson’s demands, completing the list for market. `
Nissan’s campaign is ambitious at best, but not clever or sensitive.
Perhaps a better effort would be to feature a much better athlete like Deion Sanders. He doesn’t have a Heisman, but he has 2 Super Bowl rings. He is the only person to play in a World Series and a Superbowl. He is also the only athlete in professional sports to score a touchdown and to hit a home run in the same week. Contrast that with Bleacher Report’s Ryan Alfieri who wrote, “Tim Tebow Became the Least-Wanted Man in the Entire NFL.”
We are polarized as a nation and Nissan adds to the negative template. Deion Sanders probably would say, “It must be the money,” but Nissan should make a commercial campaign worthy of “Prime Time.” Nissan makes great cars, but their narrative could use a history lesson that innovates and excites.