By Ken Reed

Nike has decided to make controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. The initial ad image has the face of Kapernick with the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” written across his face in white letters.

Kaepernick, long part of Nike’s family of celebrity athlete endorsers, has continued to be paid by Nike since his kneeling-during-the-national-anthem protest over police brutality and social injustice in this country began a couple years ago.

Under the terms of Kaepernick’s new deal with Nike, he will have his own branded line of shoes, shirts, jerseys, and other apparel.

It is certainly a bold and controversial move for Nike to take. For one thing, Nike is an NFL corporate sponsor and provides the game uniforms for all NFL teams. Second, Kaepernick is in the middle of a lawsuit against the NFL. Last week, Kaepernick won the summary judgment phase of his collusion case against the league. Kaepernick, once a rising star in the NFL, who led his team, the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, has been trying to find a job in the league for over a year, to no avail. Third, many NFL fans are upset with Kaepernick’s kneeling protests during the playing of the national anthem, and upset at the league for not coming down harder on players that have followed Kaepernick’s lead and protested during the anthem.

Kaepernick is undoubtedly a lightning rod in this country and Nike’s new campaign will reignite the fight between Kaepernick supporters and protesters.

As expected, the response to news of the Nike campaign has been mixed. Nike stock was down two percent in early trading Tuesday morning. Both protesters and supporters have come out strong on social media platforms. Reaction has been almost evenly split. Some people are openly burning their Nike shoes and clothes. Meanwhile, one NFL owner, the Oakland Raiders’ Mark Davis, has come out in support of Kaepernick and his new Nike ad campaign.

Former CIA director, John Brennan, had this to say on Twitter:

“Colin Kaepernick drew our collective attention to the problem of continued racial injustice in America. He did so not to disrespect our flag but to give meaning to the words of the preamble of our Constitution — ‘in order to form a more perfect union.’ Well done, Colin, well done.”

President Trump, a frequent critic of both Kaepernick and NFL owners for not coming down harder on players that protest during the anthem, will surely have plenty to say about this new Nike campaign.

Hang on, this is going to get loud and nasty.

The sad part is that most of the noise will be centered on Kaepernick, Nike, the NFL, Trump, etc. It won’t be focused on the real issue: police brutality and social injustice in this country.

That’s where our attention and energy should be.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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