With so many people divided on Nike’s newest “Just Do It” ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, I thought we should take a closer look to see why this issue has so many people cheering and many others jeering.
Who is Colin Kaepernick?
Colin Kaepernick was quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 – 2016. He became a household name during the 2016 NFL season when he refused to stand for the National Anthem choosing to kneel instead. According to Kaepernick, he was protesting the country’s “oppression of black people and people of color.” Kaepernick, who is bi-racial, wanted to call attention to police shootings of unarmed black men. While many believed kneeling was disrespectful to our country and the military, Kaepernick continued to take a knee. As the NFL season progressed, so did the movement as players from other teams also took a knee. Meanwhile, the backlash of those choosing to not stand for the National Anthem also intensified.
On the field, Kaepernick had a successful season as quarterback. However, he became a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, and as it was time to kick-off the 2017 season, no team picked him up. Although Kaepernick was not playing for the NFL in 2017, the movement did not go away as other players continued their protest. Kneeling for the National Anthem remained a hot topic during the 2017 NFL season. At issue, were players simply using their First Amendment right to protest racial injustice, or were they disrespecting the United States and its military?
Since no team picked up Kaepernick for the 2017 season, he filed a grievance against the NFL and its owners that they “colluded to deprive” him because of efforts to protest racial inequality. An arbitrator denied the NFL’s request to dismiss the grievance stating the quarterback submitted sufficient evidence of collusion. Furthering the controversy, in May 2018, NFL owners approved a policy requiring players to stand for the National Anthem if they are on the field, or they may choose to stay in the locker room until after the Anthem. The NFL put the policy on hold in July to negotiate the issue with the NFL Players Association.
Just as the new 2018 NFL season was kicking off and the controversy remained around whether NFL players would be required to stand during the National Anthem, Nike announced Kaepernick as the new face of the 30th anniversary for its “Just Do It” campaign with the statement ‘Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.’ The new Kaepernick campaign quickly went viral on social media. Many people cheered Nike’s show of support for Kaepernick and his efforts to take a political stand, while others promised to boycott Nike and burn products they already owned. Although Nike’s stock initially fell 2%, after announcing the Kaepernick campaign, reports say its online sales have since jumped more than 30%.
This is not the first time Nike has made social statements with its campaigns. In 1989, they featured an ad with Paralympian Craig Blanchette; in 1995, the company featured an openly gay, HIV positive runner, Ric Munoz. Also in 1995, Nike had an ad campaign featuring the benefits of organized sports for girls; and in 2017, its campaign focused on the parallels between equality in sports and equality around the world. Despite its history of pushing the needle with some of its ad campaigns, the current campaign seems to be one of the more divisive using someone who represents standing up for what you believe in and racial injustice to many, while disrespecting police officers and the country to others.