If you stay in the Chicagoland area, there’s a really good chance that you’ve seen Nike’s “Chicago Style” Diner commercial in the last week. The ads have been all around social media platforms in the form of a GIF promoting the restaurant, but there are other commercials you’ve likely seen as well. These are “Sports Change Everything, Chicago-Style” commercials featuring young athletes who’ve been inspirations or done good things for the community. McKinley Nelson (founder of Project SWISH Chicago which uses basketball to keep kids off the streets), Ixhelt Gonzalez (the youngest member of the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team and 2020 Olympic hopeful), and Monyett Crump (founder of Reveal Dance Chicago who is working to empower students through dance) were the athletes featured on the commercial. These three were highlighted in the recent presentation of the pop-up restaurant on October 25th. I was lucky enough to attend this event, which was an incredible experience. The restaurant, which was known as “Lulu’s Hot Dogs” previously, was completely decked out from head to toe with Chicago Sports contents by Nike. The place had a museum atmosphere to it and is a sight to see for any Chicagoan.
Truestar.life got a chance to speak one-on-one with Nelson, a True Star alum. Here’s what he had to say on collaborating with Nike, Project SWISH, and helping the community.
Truestar.life: You’ve collaborated with Nike before, but how does it feel to work with Nike at this stage in your journey?
McKinley Nelson: I had a project with Nike in February for the Black History Month campaign. To know that they had their eyes on me eight months later means a lot to me. I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity.
TSL: Project SWISH commercials have been showing up on YouTube and even on regular TV! What does being able to reach such a broad audience mean for you?
MN: I mean, it’s kinda crazy. When you develop the foundation for the community, you don’t expect it to be on TV or even on social media levels that it hits. I’m grateful for it, definitely grateful for the attention. I can’t express my gratitude enough, and I’m looking to see what’s next.
TSL: What is next for Project SWISH? Also what events do you have coming up?
MN: I want to encourage everyone to follow the Instagram page (@projectswishchicago) to stay tuned. I don’t want to foreshadow anything early. I want everyone to find out at the same time. We’re working with NBA players going forward, we’re expanding into more neighborhoods and touching more kids. And yeah, that’s the goal, to continue to grow.
TSL: You wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives, and here you are doing it at such a young age. What’s it like to have the support of the city behind you?
MN: It’s crazy. It’s unexpected. I never imagined in a million years I would have a billboard or commercial with my favorite brand. I’m so grateful for it. It’s surreal, and it leaves me with some optimism for the future.
TSL: What is your ultimate career goal?
MN: I’m not really certain. My career goal from a personal standpoint, I’m not too sure about. But as far as the foundation goes, I want every kid in Chicago to have touched some kind of Project SWISH event or Project Swish help, or at least know what we’re about. So the goal is to continue to expand and touch as many people as possible.
It’s so inspiring and heartwarming to see young people doing so much good for the community. Make sure to follow the Project SWISH Instagram page. If you want to check out Nike’s “Chicago Style” Diner it’ll be open from 10AM to 8PM at 1000 S. Leavitt St. until November 4th!
By Hugo Vazquez, Senior, Brooks College Prep