Videos of Nike customers burning their brand gear began appearing on Sept. 3, after the company announced a new campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick is a divisive figure in the sports world and the political landscape for starting the form of protest in which football players kneel during the National Anthem.
Kaepernick and a few others began kneeling during the preseason in the 2016-17 season.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Since then, the protests have ripped the league apart, dividing players, owners, and fans into different spheres and causing viewership numbers to plummet.
Surveys of fans who no longer watch or who watch fewer games have shown that the National Anthem issue is one of the biggest issues the league is dealing with.
NFL executives tried to institute a new policy for the current season, which included a strict ban on not standing for the anthem, but the player’s union negotiated the policy to a halt and no updates have been given since.
BREAKING: Nike had been paying Colin Kaepernick all along, waiting for the right moment. That moment is now, as he becomes the face of the company’s 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign. pic.twitter.com/uccpDStbq5
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 3, 2018
Details on Kaepernick and #Nike:
– It’s wide endorsement. He’s going to have his own branded line. Shoes, shirts, jerseys, etc. There will be Kaepernick apparel.
– Contract is a “star” deal on par with a top end #NFL player. Millions per year. Star deals also include royalties.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 3, 2018
Material for Nike’s new campaign featuring Kaepernick, who no longer players professional football, began circulating on Sept. 3. The main image is a close-up of Kaepernick’s face with the following words imposed on the frame: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
According to ESPN, the Nike campaign is meant to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the brand’s iconic “Just Do It” motto.
Nike originally signed Kaepernick in 2011 and has kept paying him even though the company has not used him at all in the past two years.
“We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward,” Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s vice president of brand for North America, told ESPN.
“We wanted to energize its meaning and introduce ‘Just Do It’ to a new generation of athletes,” he added, noting the campaign is specifically targeted to 15- to 17-year-olds.
The other faces in the campaign include Lacey Baker, Serena Williams, and Odell Beckham Jr.
First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive? pic.twitter.com/4CVQdTHUH4
— Sean Clancy (@sclancy79) September 3, 2018
— AlterAtYeshiva (@alteratyeshiva) September 4, 2018
A number of social media users reacted to the news, some extremely negatively.
Some users posted videos of their Nike gear on fire.
“First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive?” said one Twitter user, Sean Clancy.
Nike shares fell nearly 3 percent on Sept. 4, amid the burning gear and calls for a boycott of the sportswear giant, reported Reuters.
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