Nike wants the country to listen to what Colin Kaepernick has to say. And on Thursday, the company will do its best to make that happen by taking on the NFL — which Kaepernick is suing for allegedly colluding to keep him unemployed as punishment for protesting police brutality — on the league’s own turf.
During the NFL season opener between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons, Nike will air a powerful commercial (as seen above) that celebrates Kaepernick and other athletes while also commemorating the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” ad campaign.
The ad begins with an unseen narrator talking about dreams, goals, and striving to do more than you ever thought possible. As the narrator talks about the importance of embracing “crazy” dreams, we see footage and hear stories of incredible accomplishments. Some of the faces achieving those accomplishments are familiar: For example, footage of LeBron James playing basketball, as well as opening a public school, is accompanied by the line, “Don’t become the best basketball player on the planet. Be bigger than basketball.”
Then comes the chill-inducing moment: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” the voice says before revealing that Kaepernick has been narrating the entire commercial. The ad closes with footage of a young Serena Williams, as Kaepernick talks about how a girl from Compton didn’t just become a tennis player, but the greatest athlete ever.
Kaepernick’s call for people to “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” is a reference to Kaepernick’s battle against the NFL for allegedly colluding to keep the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback out of the league over his protests against racial injustice and the police killings of unarmed black men and women. Kaepernick began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games in 2016, and went unemployed by the league the following two years.
Though Kaepernick and other NFL players who have kneeled during the national anthem maintain that their protest is about police brutality resulting in the deaths of unarmed black Americans, that hasn’t stopped their critics, including President Donald Trump, from claiming that Kaepernick is disrespecting his flag and country.
And in the wake of Nike’s ad campaign, which was announced on Monday, Kaepernick’s critics began calling for a Nike boycott, with some people destroying their already purchased Nike apparel. This ad won’t make those people very happy.
By kicking off its campaign with Kaepernick and including James and Williams, two transcendent athletes who have endured irrational and political criticism, Nike appears to be reemphasizing its support of Kaepernick and his message — even in the face of NFL owners and Kaepernick’s critics, one of whom is the president of the United States.