Nike lost more than $3.5 billion in market value after it released a new ad sporting the face of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, known for his protests during the national anthem.
The news of the ad came on Sept. 3, which caused Nike share prices to fall below $80, shortly after the markets opened on Sept. 4, down from over $82 on Aug. 31, according to MarketWatch.
Previously, Nike stocks had been on a roll, gaining nearly 60 percent in value since October 2017.
The new ad marked the 30th anniversary of Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan and said, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” featuring a closeup of Kaepernick’s face.
Kaepernick, a former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, started kneeling during the national anthem as it played before games in 2016. He said it was a protest against what he perceived as police mistreating minority communities. He also blamed racism. Some other players have followed suit.
On May 23, the league banned players from taking a knee during the anthem but allowed them to go to the locker room while it plays.
On July 20, the NFL shelved the policy while negotiating with the players’ union, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), which filed a grievance against the anthem policy on July 10.
Nike signed an endorsement deal with Kaepernick in 2011, but haven’t used him in the past two years, ESPN reported.
By using his face now, the company has taken a political stance on a divisive issue.
Americans on Kaepernick
A light majority (54 percent) of voters believe kneeling during the anthem is an inappropriate form of a protest, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll quoted by NBC News on Sept. 2.
After his protests, Kaepernick couldn’t find a team to sign him in 2017. He’s suing the league, alleging NFL owners conspired to keep him out, though there was a discussion about the quality of his play too.
“I think he was once an average NFL starter, but has been playing at a backup-caliber level the past two seasons,” Scott Barrett of ProFootballFocus wrote last year, after analyzing Kaepernick’s stats.
At times, Kaepernick went beyond protesting racism, like when he wore socks during a training camp with a print depicting police as pigs, in summer 2016. He later said the socks were only aimed at “rogue cops.” On another occasion, he wore a t-shirt with photographs of Malcolm X meeting Fidel Castro, the late Cuban communist dictator, and a slogan, “Like Minds Think Alike.”
Trump on Kaepernick
Nike’s move also pushed the brand out of the graces of President Donald Trump, who repeatedly criticized NFL players as having chosen a disrespectful form of protest.
“Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!” Trump said in an Aug. 10 tweet.
Some people have pledged on social media to ditch Nike for other brands, while a handful went as far as burning some Nike gear on camera and posting the videos online.
Trump supporters on the Reddit page The_Donald noted that Trump’s son Barron seems to prefer New Balance for his sneakers, a brand that distinguishes itself by maintaining a manufacturing presence in the United States.
Stockbrokers appeared to pick up on the risks involved in Nike’s move, as reflected in the drop of share prices.
Nike stated the ad was aimed at a young audience, ages 15 to 17.
“We wanted to energize its meaning and introduce ‘Just Do It’ to a new generation of athletes,” Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s vice president of brand for North America, told ESPN.