Nike announced Monday night that Colin Kaepernick is the face of the company’s new “Just Do It” campaign. Within moments of the announcement, the same controversy that Kaepernick sparked two years ago when he began kneeling during the national anthem began to play out all over again.
Some conservatives started their own protest, burning their Nike NFL jerseys. Conservative media outlets hopped on the story. Mainstream news outlets did too.
Kaepernick announced the campaign on Twitter Monday night. The tagline is explicitly about his activism: “Believe in something. Even if it means losing everything.”
LeBron James, Serena Williams, NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., NFL linebacker Shaquem Griffin, and skateboarder Lacey Baker are also part of the “Just Do It” campaign.
Nike is the official apparel manufacturer of the NFL, and its stock sank 3 points when the market opened.
It’s not exactly a surprise. Kaepernick’s political display has roiled not just the NFL but the world of sports in general. President Donald Trump has waded into the controversy, routinely blasting Kaepernick.
But by Tuesday morning, the same conservative outlets that fanned the anti-Kaepernick flames had latched onto the Nike ad.
Still, Kaepernick does have supporters, including other players, who joined in in his protest.
Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in February 2013, had a multi-year contract with Nike that began in 2011. The new deal is reportedly worth millions and will include a Kaepernick-branded shoe and apparel, though the exact terms have not yet been disclosed by either Kaepernick’s representation or Nike.
BREAKING: Nike had been paying Colin Kaepernick all along, waiting for the right moment. That moment is now, as he becomes the face of the company’s 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign. pic.twitter.com/uccpDStbq5— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 3, 2018
Kaepernick is pursuing a lawsuit against the NFL alleging that NFL teams and ownership colluded against him to keep him off an NFL roster because of his protest and the backlash against it. In response to the ad, NFL executive vice president Jocelyn Moore said in a statement, “The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
And in an interview with the Daily Caller on Tuesday, Trump said that the ad sent “a terrible message,” before adding, “Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent,” referring to Niketown New York’s current presence in a Trump Organization-owned building.
But the President also said that Nike had a right to do the ad campaign: “In another way, it is what this country is all about,” he said, “that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do.”