When Nike announced that its newest 30th anniversary campaign star was unsigned athlete-activist Colin Kaepernick, critics took to social media to decry the brand’s bold political choice. Users posted videos of themselves burning their Nike shoes and leisurewear; a photo of destroyed swoosh socks went viral on Twitter. If their intention was to cut into Nike’s sales in protest, they didn’t succeed — Time reports that Nike’s profits have increased a staggering 31% since the announcement. Turns out taking a stand for civil liberties is a good business move.
Now for the nitty-gritty: Edison Trends indicates that sales jumped 31% during the 2018 Labor Day weekend, as compared to the same time period in 2017. The Kaepernick campaign appears to be the defining factor in consumer spending. The photo ad and commercial blanketed social media, and generated backlash publicity that led to even more brand exposure. Kaepernick began kneeling at NFL games in 2016 in protest during the national anthem, and is suing the league for conspiring to keep him off the field after that season.
President Donald Trump, a longtime critic of Kaepernick and NFL players who choose to kneel, blasted Nike’s decision on Twitter. “What was Nike thinking?” he wrote; hundreds of roasting comments ensued. “I don’t think it’s appropriate what they did,” Trump said at a rally in Montana this week. “I honor the flag. I honor our national anthem, and most of the people in this country feel the same way.”
Trump, and other critics of Kaepernick, misunderstand the point of Kaepernick’s protest. His decision to not support the national anthem is borne is of anger and sorrow at police brutality that disproportionately affects young men of color. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick in 2016, when he was playing for the San Francisco 49ers. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”