Commentary

Nike Signs Colin Kaepernick To New Deal, Launches Campaign With Tweet

Colin Kaepernick, the free-agent quarterback who has found it impossible to get a job in the NFL since he took a knee to protest racial injustice during the playing of the national anthem, joined Nike’s 30th Anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign over the Labor Day weekend.

“An early image from the campaign made its debut on Monday with a tweet from Kaepernick. The advertisement shows a black-and-white image of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback. The text on top of the image reads: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” reports Jason Breslow for NPR.

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As you might expect, the ad is generating a backlash.

Country singer John Rich tweeted, "Our Soundman just cut the Nike swoosh off his socks. Former marine. Get ready @Nike multiply that by the millions.”

A narrated video from one Sean Clancy has had 2.63 million views as of this morning. It shows him burning a pair of Nikes under a tweet that claims the company is forcing him “to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive?”

The take-a-knee protests have nothing to do with the flag or anthem being offensive, as Texas senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke makes clear in his own viral video.

A Twitter survey pinned by ESPN’s Darren Rovell finds that 29% of 35,938 respondents are “more likely to buy Nike,” 21% are “less likely,” and 50% say the brand's using Kaepernick “doesn’t affect” them one way or the other. 

“Nike had been paying Colin Kaepernick all along, waiting for the right moment. That moment is now,” Rovell tweeted earlier. 

“Kaepernick already had a deal with Nike that was set to expire, but it was renegotiated into a multi-year deal to make him one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary ‘Just Do It’ campaign, according to a person familiar with the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Nike hasn’t officially announced the contract,” writes the AP’s Rob Maaddi in the Seattle Times.

Indeed, “last spring, when NFL team owners were privately battling the collusion case brought against the league by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a curious debate began in some corners of the multibillion-dollar sports apparel industry. It orbited around two questions: Was Kaepernick a sleeping giant as a marketing centerpiece; and if he was, why wasn’t Nike doing anything with him?,” writes Charles Robinson for Yahoo Sports.

“In the wake of Kaepernick’s new endorsement deal with Nike, which stands to pay him millions per year plus royalties, at least part of that debate has been resolved. The shoe and clothing giant definitely has big plans for Kaepernick, which one insider told Yahoo Sports includes a line built around him encompassing shoes, shirts, jerseys and other apparel.”

As for the folks who refuse to employ him, “the NFL did not immediately respond to requests for comment,” write Kevin Draper and Ken Belson for the New York Times. “The ad and the campaign, coming a few days before the start of the NFL season on Thursday, is likely to annoy the league’s top executives and its owners. On Thursday, Kaepernick won a victory in his grievance against the league when an arbitrator let his case, in which he accuses the league of conspiring to keep him off the field because of his activism, advance.”

NYSportsJournalism’s Barry Janoff suggests that Serena Williams, who is one of Nike’s major endorsers and a big Kaepernick supporter, played a part in the decision. “Kaepernick and Eric Reid, a former teammate who also knelt during the National Anthem, were both at the U.S. Open last week to watch Serena play Venus Williams, and received support from Serena,” he writes.

“Every athlete, every American and definitely every African American should be completely grateful for and honor that Colin and Eric are doing so much for the greater good,” Williams said during her post-match press conference. “They really use their platform in ways that is really unfathomable. I feel like they obviously have great respect from a lot of their peers, especially other athletes, people that really are looking for social change.”

Williams herself is scoring “an epic triumph against the sexist tennis establishment, in tweets and tutus,” as Marketing Daily’s Sarah Mahoney wrote Friday after the French Tennis Federation chastised her for wearing a Nike-designed catsuit during the French Open.

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