On Monday, Nike kicked off its 30th-anniversary campaign for its now iconic slogan “Just Do It” starring athletes like Serena Williams, LeBron James, and Odell Beckham Jr. It also features former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, revealing that Nike, which signed him in 2011 but hasn’t actively worked with him over the past two years, has been paying him all along.
The ad reads “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” — which is exactly what Kaepernick has done. He started kneeling during the National Anthem in 2016 as a silent protest against police brutality. As a result, Kaepernick has not been active on a team roster since 2016 (he’s also suing the NFL, alleging that owners kept him from signing a contract, thus keeping him from playing).
Following the announcement, alt-right fans of the brand have taken to Twitter with the hashtags #BoycottNike and #JustBurnIt, showing themselves cutting the athletic logo off of shorts and socks. And while some may say aligning with Kaepernick is a risk, last year, his jersey was still in the top 50 of NFL jersey sales, proving that his controversy has not tainted his popularity.
First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive? pic.twitter.com/4CVQdTHUH4— Sean Clancy (@sclancy79) September 3, 2018
As sports analyst Jemele Hill pointed out on Twitter, when Nike made a Black man, Michael Jordan, the face of the brand in the ’80s, it was considered to be a big-time risk. “They aren’t new to this,” she wrote. And this moment is no different. Nike’s move not only acknowledges Black buying power, which is now valued at $1.2 trillion, but it also fully endorses Kaepernick’s mission: Nike will donate proceeds to his “Know Your Rights” campaign, an organisation he fully funds to “raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.”
In an interview with ESPN, Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s vice president of brand for North America, said: “We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward.” And by supporting Kaepernick's protests against racial inequality and injustice, Nike is helping do just that.