It’s a story that has been polarizing America for many months. Colin Kaepernick and his kneeling during the national anthem have sparked reactions from outrage to applause. And in a surprising yet strategic move, Nike just made him the face of their 30th anniversary campaign.
At the height of his athletic fame, Kaepernick was a star NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. In August of 2016, the player took his first knee. Kaepernick captured audience, media, and even presidential attention when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial oppression and police brutality in America.
Kaepernick’s actions triggered responses from both ends of the spectrum. Many claimed he was a hero in his fight for equality. Others argued his kneeling was disrespectful to the military and American flag. While his conduct was divisive, it started necessary conversation. The quarterback refused to apologize for standing up – or rather kneeling – for issues about which he so fiercely cared. Other NFL players followed suit and began to kneel during the anthem. Donald Trump even chimed in on Kaepernick by saying team owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field.”
By March of 2017, Kaepernick had decided to opt out of renewing his next-season NFL contract with the 49ers. Since then, Kaepernick has had a very tough time getting a different team to sign a contract with him. He has accused team owners – and even the Commissioner of the NFL – of colluding to lock him out of the league.
Because of Kaepernick’s controversial actions, few brands have wanted him as the face of their company. Until now. It is no secret that Nike has sponsored Kaepernick since 2011. But earlier this week, Nike revealed that they have paying the player even while the controversy was happening. The athletic apparel company then dropped the news that Kaepernick would act as the face for the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign.
Here is the official tweet:
Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. #JustDoIt pic.twitter.com/SRWkMIDdaO
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
The news has again sparked intense reactions on both sides of the debate. Opponents of the campaign shared hundreds of videos of themselves burning expensive Nike shoes. Others believe that this is the platform that has been needed since Colin Kaepernick first knelt. Will Nike lose longtime customers because of this move? Probably. But while it is a bold step, the company is standing in solidarity with Kaepernick to raise awareness about important national issues – and for that their actions must be respected.
Check out the other interesting work that Nike is doing here.