Nike Taps Colin Kaepernick for Latest 'Just Do It' Campaign
The company jumps on social justice branding again.
The multinational corporation strategically shared the football player’s “Just Do It” poster for its 30th anniversary, three days before the NFL season officially kicks off, BuzzFeed reports.
The black-and-white ad is a bold move for Nike, showing a headshot of Kaepernick with the words, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
Starting during the 2016 NFL preseason, Kaepernick began to kneel during the national anthem to draw attention to police brutality against African-Americans and other racial injustices. Other football players and athletes joined him. Some sports fans — and even the White House administration — weren’t pleased, sparking a national debate.
In May, the NFL made it optional for football players to walk onto the field during the “Star Spangled Banner,” but under the policy, those who protested would still face consequences. By July, the NFL rule was put on hold, making each team responsible for how it deals with players who protest.
Kaepernick, who hasn’t been on the field with a team since 2016, declared himself a free agent in 2017, making some wonder if NFL teams didn’t want to sign him because of his protests. The quarterback is suing the NFL, claiming it won’t let him play because he took a public stance on inequality.
San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sept 12, 2016.
The timing of Nike’s new campaign suggests the company isn’t afraid to put pressure on the NFL. Kaepernick reportedly had a deal with Nike that dates back to 2011; rather than drop him after NFL controversy, Nike kept him on its endorsement roster.
While off the field, Kaepernick has continued using his fame to amplify social justice issues and raised money to fight famine in Somalia in 2017. His work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Human rights organization Amnesty International named Kaepernick its 2018 Ambassador of Conscience for his activism, and he received Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for his commitment to social justice the same year.
Nike’s Kaepernick campaign has sparked social media reactions from those who disagree with his activism, including destroying their Nike products in protest, while others rushed to buy Nike products in support, according to CNN. Some have urged those who oppose the campaign to donate their Nike gear to those in need.
Let me guess we‘re boycotting Nike because by them supporting Colin Kaepernick they are somehow “disrespecting the flag.” We all know this to be untrue/unfounded but a segment of our population will continue to seek division over unity. I’m putting on my Nike shoes! #NikeBoycottpic.twitter.com/fLRo6GFXDN— MuslimMarine (@mansoortshams) September 4, 2018
If you burn/destroy clothes and shoes instead of bringing them to a veteran charity, don’t talk patriotism or honoring vets.— Steve Marmel (@Marmel) September 4, 2018
You are throwing away something SOMEONE you say you respect needs to be spiteful and look cool on social media.
It proves your outrage a lie.#NikeBoycott
Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith pointed out that despite standing against injustice, the company is still making money off activism. Nike isn’t unlike many other corporations that have jumped on the marketing trend in recent years, monetizing everything from the #MeToo movement to stopping police brutality.
Is this a corporation seeking to profit off of the pursuit of social justice? Yes. But this accomplishes one thing that could be important. The NFL is now facing pressure from one of its biggest partners to end its collusion against @Kaepernick7. Nike makes the team uniforms. pic.twitter.com/OM08WMa9fr— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) September 3, 2018
Regardless of Nike’s profit-making intentions, the campaign sends a powerful message by celebrating those who stand up for change and encouraging others to speak out against injustice, even when it requires putting everything on the line.