An American multinational corporation, Nike has become a subject of controversy since it unveiled its new “Just Do It” advertising campaign featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Several Americans shared photos and videos of them burning Nike products in protest. Shares of the company were also down 2.5% on Tuesday, a day after the controversial announcement was released. Last year, sportswear maker Under Armor found itself in a similar predicament after its chief executive made pro-Trump comments. Another giant, Adidas was asked to sever ties with rapper Kanye West in May after describing slavery as a choice and praising Trump.
Critics of Kaepernick hit Nike on social media platforms. Clearly unhappy with the sports brand, many people posted photos and videos of them burning the company’s products on social media, using the hashtags #boycottNike and #justburnit.
Why is Colin Kaepernick such a controversial figure?
The former NFL player sparked a political storm at his home in 2016 by kneeling during the US national anthem to protest racial injustice. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was taken off the squad after repeating the act and hasn’t played in the NFL since the start of last year.
The new Nike ads, which were unveiled just days before the start of the 2018 NFL season, show a portrait of Kaepernick with the tagline, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. The announcement was posted by the athlete on his Twitter account with the caption #JustDoIt.
– Colin Kaepernick (@ Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
The announcement also comes days after Kaepernick was cheered by spectators when he appeared alongside player and activist Eric Reid at the US Open tennis tournament to watch Serena Williams on Friday.
Donald Trump reacts
The President of the United States revived the controversy during a campaign rally in September last year. Trump had described players like Kaepernick who knelt for the anthem as “motherfuckers” who should be fired. The US president has repeated the criticisms frequently over the past year, even suggesting at one point that protesting players “shouldn’t be in the country.”
He also denounced the recent campaign saying, “I think this is a terrible message that (Nike) is sending and the purpose of doing it, maybe there is a reason they are doing it.”
The Jimmy Kimmel show returned from a break to discuss the Nike controversy. Kimmel called burning Nike products stupid. “All these guys who voted for Trump, now they can’t watch the NFL anymore, they can’t ride Harley, they have to burn their Nike, they can’t go to Starbucks or watch Netflix, they have to love Vladimir Putin and hate the FBI… I mean if it was a joke it would be one of the greatest jokes ever, “he said.” Why don’t you just burn your money? You’ve already bought the clothes, ”Kimmel added.
Trevor Noah, on his show, expressed a similar point of view and asked protesters if they realize Nike already has their money. “Wow, are people so mad they burn their own shoes?” ” he said. “You realize Nike already has your money, don’t you? They already have your money. You are only hurting yourself, ”he said.
Country music singer John Rich posted a photo of a pair of cropped Nike athletic socks. “Our Soundman just cut the Nike swoosh off his socks,” Rich wrote on Twitter. “Get ready @Nike multiply that by millions.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan came to support Kaepernick and said he had drawn collective attention to the problem of persistent racial injustice in America. “I did this not to disrespect our flag, but to give meaning to the words of the preamble to our Constitution -” in order to form a more perfect union. ” “Well done, Colin, well done,” Brennan tweeted.
The latest campaign has again sparked talks over the issue of the national anthem and player protests against police violence over the coming season, increasing pressure on the NFL to find a solution. In May, NFL owners approved a new policy that required all players on the field to stand during the pre-game ritual of the US National Anthem. However, it was suspended in July when the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to reopen the dialogue to reach agreement on a new approach.
To make matters worse for Nike, ESPN reported that Kaepernick, who signed a sponsorship deal with the company in 2011, has been on its payroll throughout the controversy of the past two years.
– Colin Kaepernick (@ Kaepernick7) September 5, 2018
“We believe Colin is one of the most inspiring athletes of this generation, who has harnessed the power of sport to help move the world forward,” said Gino Fisanotti, Nike Brand Vice President for the North America.
Unperturbed by the protests, Nike even dropped a full ad starring Colin Kaepernick on Wednesday. The ad, which is due to air directly ahead of the NFL season on Thursday, features female athletes, a disabled youth, a reference to refugees and people of different races.
The ad makes no mention of Kaepernick’s infamous position and is a call for excellence at the highest level, featuring famous athletes such as Serena Williams and LeBron James, as well as lesser-known players such as the star. from MLS Alphonso Davies, who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled the civil war in Liberia.