by Henry Miller | Staff Writer
In 2016 Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, began the act of kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism, police brutality, and social injustice. President Donald Trump proceeded to publicly state through social media the protesting players should be fired, which turned the actions into a political fight.
In early September, Nike made the decision to use Kaepernick as the face of a new marketing campaign that honors its 30th anniversary of the famous “Just Do It” slogan, a bold move in an era where companies try and avoid taking stances that will possibly make their customers angry. Nike has proved to make one of the most controversial ads yet. Kaepernick has a brand new contract deal, in addition to apparel with his name and image on it.
In proceeding with this, Nike took a huge risk in terms of disregarding the portion of the population who believe that national anthem protests by Kaepernick were disrespectful. Shares were down by more than 3%, however it is unsure if it was due to the correlation between Kaepernick or simply other market forces. On the positive side, the actions and message Nike sent could be a hit among its foundation of young customers. On Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook there was over one million responses to Kaepernick, mere hours after he first announced the partnership. Overall, there was more positive support than negative, although the hashtag Boycott Nike surfaced on Twitter in the first 24 hours. Looking at the campaign as a whole, there was a huge amount of free advertising for Nike. In reality, Nike most likely knew backlash would occur and still decided to go through with the deal.
For years, Nike has ignored Kaepernick, not using him in any advertising, and then makes this statement and ad. Some might call it is questionable timing, due to the fact that in August, two women filed a class action lawsuit against Nike in regards to gender-based pay discrimination and sexual harassment.
As another NFL season is underway, the divide surrounding this debate still remains. In Florida, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills continues to carry on the legacy Kaepernick left behind. He has never stopped kneeling because he feels helpless with respect to some of the issues our country is dealing with. While Kaepernick is no longer on the field, Stills has become a remembrance on the field of the willingness to sacrifice one’s career for their beliefs.