Here’s why Caster Semenya’s powerful Nike ad is a big deal

Caster Semenya’s new Nike ad is being seen by millions, helping make her one of the world’s most visible and inspirational LGBTIQ sporting champions.

This week, the global sports and leisurewear company released its new ad featuring the South African Olympian. The video comes in the wake of the recent controversial campaign with American footballer Colin Kaepernick, which led to some burning their Nike shoes. Despite this, Nike actually saw a massive 31% increase in sales.

The Semenya ad follows in the Kaepernick campaign’s footsteps by highlighting another achiever who has made headlines and has something to say and isn’t afraid to say it. The runner has been embroiled in a longstanding furore because critics claim that her “high” testosterone level gives her an unfair advantage against other women competitors.

“Will it be easier for you if I wasn’t so fast?” asks Semenya in the moving video. “Will it be simpler if I stop winning? Would you be more comfortable if I was less proud?”

She continues: “Will you prefer that I hadn’t worked so hard, or just didn’t run, or chose a different sport, or stopped at my first steps. That’s too bad – because I was born to do this.”

The ad, which has been viewed more than 2,4 million times, is a striking rebuttal against her naysayers, asserting that she was born the way she is, and asking why she should be penalised because of it.

It’s a powerful affirmation for all LGBTIQ people and anyone who stands out from society’s arbitrary norms.

Semenya is fighting against recent regulations imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that aim to force her to have medically unnecessary hormone therapy to reduce her testosterone levels if she wants to compete.

She has filed a case against the IAAF with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland arguing that she is entitled to compete the way she was born without being obliged to alter her body by medical means. “Regulations that call for scrutiny of women’s naturally occurring hormone levels are at root a form of judgment and a questioning of women’s sex and gender identity,” said Human Rights Watch.

Semenya is a three-time 800m world champion and won silver at the 2012 Summer Olympics and gold in the 800 metre event at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In January last year, she followed her 2015 traditional marriage ceremony to longtime partner and wife Violet Raseboya with a ‘white wedding’ that made global headlines.

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