Nike CEO Who Oversaw Colin Kaepernick Ad Campaign Is Stepping Down: Reports

October 24, 2019 Updated: October 24, 2019

Nike’s CEO Mark Parker, who was behind the ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, is stepping down in January but will remain the executive chairman.

The firm will now relinquish his role to former eBay CEO John Donahoe. Parker made the announcement on Tuesday via a Nike press release.

Nike’s sales have been up as it attempts to sell its sneakers online and via its apps, but the Oregon-based company has come under fire in recent years.

Three weeks ago, renowned track coach Alberto Salazar was banned from the sport for four years by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for running experiments with supplements and testosterone that were bankrolled and supported by Nike, along with possessing and trafficking testosterone. Nike announced that it was shutting down its elite Oregon Project track and field program overseen by Salazar in the wake of the scandal, as noted by The Associated Press.

During Parker’s tenure, Nike also faced backlash from consumers after it ran the Kaepernick ad campaign, which featured his face on billboards—including in prominent spots in New York City. Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has become a lightning rod of controversy after he protested during the playing of the U.S. national anthem. He hasn’t played a snap since 2017.

Nike-stores-China-Houston-Rockets
A Nike store selling NBA Los Angeles Lakers sportswear is seen in Beijing, China on Oct. 10, 2019. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

By September 2018, Nike dropped the ad campaign, which ultimately won the “outstanding commercial” award during the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in 2019.

Parker told CNBC on Tuesday that Donahoe is “no stranger” to Nike, adding that he is the “best choice” to come in.

Nike’s board, he added, has spent “many months working on succession planning. … This is not something that happens in a matter of weeks.”

He also addressed the alleged doping controversy.

“We are staying very close to the situation,” Parker told CNBC on Tuesday. “We are in the midst of complex times.”

“He’s coming in with a lot of experience around consumer digital, enterprise technology, global strategy, leadership, he’s a great developer of talent,” he said of Donohue. “He really clicks a lot of the boxes we’re looking for and to add horsepower to Nike.”

Sporting Goods store drops Nike after Kaepernick ad
People walk by a Nike advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick on display, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, in New York. Nike this week unveiled the deal with the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who’s known for starting protests among NFL players over alleged police brutality and racial inequality. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“It is an honor to become President and CEO of this amazing, innovative company, and to join the more than 76,000 talented and passionate employees dedicated to serving athletes,” said Donahoe in the press release. “Over the last five years, I’ve been proud to be connected to Nike through my role on the Board and now look forward to being a full-time member of the team, working even more closely with Mark, building on Nike’s success and seizing the opportunities ahead.”

According to Business Insider, Donohue will officially take the reins on Jan. 3, 2020. Parker will be the executive chairman on the board of directors.

“While products are usually the first to grab the attention of our consumers, we deepen those relationships through the power of digital,” Parker said in a call with investors last month, according to Business Insider.

Nike’s rival, Under Armour, will also have a new leader in the new year. On the same day Nike made its announcement, Under Armour said founder Kevin Plank will step aside as CEO in January and be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Patrik Frisk.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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