Nike enters NFL anthem debate with Kaepernick ad

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Nike is leaning into the National Football League national anthem debate by putting the man who started it all in a new "Just Do It" campaign. Colin Kaepernick—who began sitting out the anthem in 2016 as a way to protest social inequalities—stars in a new ad Nike released on Monday via Kaepernick's Twitter handle.

The tweet shows the former San Francisco 49er staring straight ahead with the following copy beneath his eyes: "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." The tweet includes the Nike swoosh and the "Just Do It" slogan.

A Nike spokeswoman stated in an email that the ad is part of a broader campaign by Wieden & Kennedy that commemorates the 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" tagline and includes other athletes. One ad shows Serena Williams, stating: "Girls from Compton don't play tennis. They own it." A Nike TV ad starring Williams has aired during the U.S. Open.

But the Kaepernick ad will likely steal most of the attention because of the emotional nature of the anthem debate.

Kaepernick began his protest in 2016 by sitting during the anthem in a pre-season game. In subsequent games, he knelt, sparking a movement that other players joined to protest police brutality and social inequities. It started a national debate that continues today, luring in President Donald Trump, who has criticized players who kneel. It would not be surprising if the tweeter-in-chief weighs in on the Nike ad.

The NFL could not be reached for comment at press time.

Plenty of other people already have commented. Just a couple hours after it was posted, Kaepernick's tweet had already drawn more than 56,000 retweets, 127,740 likes and plenty of comments. It sparked the predictable amount of backlash and support for an issue that divided the nation. Some people claimed they would boycott Nike, while others praised the company for taking a stand.

Kaepernick in 2016 explained his protest this way: "I'm going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change. When there's significant change and I feel that flag represents what it's supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way that it's supposed to, I'll stand."

Kaepernick entered free agency in 2017 and has not played since. He has accused team owners of keeping him off the field because of hs role in the protest. He claimed a legal victory last week when an arbitrator ruled that his grievance should proceed. The NFL had sought to dismiss the case. His lawyer, Mark Geragos, released the finding on Twitter.

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