Nike, a world leader in athletic gear and clothing is widely recognized by their signature swoosh often accompanied by their slogan, “Just do it.” Well Nike, you just did it.
An endorsement deal between Nike and Colin Kaepernick prompted an overwhelming show of uproar throughout the country on Tuesday. The now famous advertisement (or infamous depending on who you ask) shows the former NFL star with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” draped across his face.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
This comes out at a time that the NFL anthem policy has arguably never been more unclear. Social justice issues have risen to the forefront of the American political landscape. Perhaps most importantly, in this case, is that the NFL season starts this week. An NFL season that will once again begin without Kaepernick on a roster, for at least the time being.
Kaepernick, who last played with the San Francisco 49ers and who many NFL analysts believe has the ability to be a present-day starter somewhere in the NFL, has gone unsigned since March 2017. Court documents from his collusion case reveal most teams considered him good enough to be a starter.
The instant reaction by many to Nike taking a symbolic stand with Kaepernick and is making a political statement. This very well may be the case for the company that was worth nearly $30 billion in 2017. The league quickly released a statement regarding one of their biggest brands for the sport.
“We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities,” said Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s executive Vice president of communications and public affairs. “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
Players across the league and celebrities voiced their opinions on the now dividing issue.
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said: “I hope other corporations follow (Nike’s) example.”
I hope other corporations follow the example! ✊🏾 https://t.co/8gNJJ4RSUh
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) September 4, 2018
Another Nike spokesperson, Serena Williams, tweeted out, “Especially proud to be a part of the Nike family today. #justdoit.”
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) September 4, 2018
While Nike very well may have chosen Kaepernick for their 30-year “Just Do It” campaign due to political reasons, the more likely answer is that it was a business decision. The immediate reaction by some has seen people taking to social media to either burn their Nike purchases or remove the Nike swoosh from their clothing.
— John Rich (@johnrich) September 3, 2018
— American Eagle (@AMPRo1219) September 4, 2018
The backlash has even featured former NFL player Pat Tillman, who left the league following the September 11 attacks to join the army. While Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, his image has been used in a makeshift counter-ad to the new Nike ad, despite the wishes of his family.
Pat Tillman’s family has asked again and again that his death not be exploited to slam Colin Kaepernick. That’s not stopping these guys. They should apologize to the Tillmans. https://t.co/1NH7GAMEsw
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) September 4, 2018
Let the obvious be stated first, while some may be burning and damaging their clothing, the purchase has already been made and Nike has already profited from those customers. The reality of the situation is that last season, without spending a single day on an NFL roster Kaepernick was ranked No. 39 on the NFLPA’s official NFL merchandise Top 50 list during the 2017 season, according to Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager.
— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) August 1, 2017
Kaepernick may not rank in the top 50 in jersey sales going into the 2018 season but he may ultimately be the most recognizable football player in the country. His work outside of football, while controversial, has made him a public persona that transcends the sport. It may not be favorable for most companies to side with a figure that even the president has spoken out against, in this case, Nike is playing the long game.
The president told The Daily Caller on Tuesday that Nike should have avoided the former NFC Champion quarterback.
“I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent,” Trump said of Nike’s new campaign. “There’s no reason for it.”
In this instance, Nike is betting on their future and the future of the country in the aftermath of the Kaepernick era. By Nike choosing Kaepernick, they are banking on the possibility that when history looks back at what has transpired they will come out looking favorably having been on the right side of history.
This is extremely reliant on the long game for Nike as the immediate reaction financially has been less than ideal. Stock prices dropped for the company by nearly 4% in the day following the announcement, with prices leveling out as the day went on.
With other outspoken stars such as LeBron James and Williams already part of the Nike roster, Nike has looked like the activist brand that has won many over by their recent ads. Never forget though, that as important and impactful these decisions are, at the end of the day it is a business and Kaepernick is just another investment, albeit one that is making waves throughout a country in social turmoil.