In Depth

#JustBurnIt: Nike suffer Colin Kaepernick advert backlash

Former NFL quarterback is the face of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ 30th anniversary campaign

Nike’s decision to use Colin Kaepernick as the face of its new advertising campaign is causing a major divide in the US with some critics burning trainers and boycotting the brand in protest.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick has gained global prominence for his ongoing fight against police brutality and racial injustice in America.

The 30-year-old started his own protest at a National Football League (NFL) pre-season match in 2016 where he sat down during the US anthem instead of standing. In other matches he “took a knee” and this inspired a player protest movement.

Critics including US President Donald Trump, American football fans and the media say that Kaepernick has disrespected the nation’s flag and anthem during his protest.

Since leaving the 49ers in March of last year he has been out of work. Many supporters claim it’s because of Kaepernick’s protests and not due to a lack of on-field talent.

Then in October his lawyers filed a grievance against NFL team owners, claiming they conspired not to hire him because of his protests. It was announced last week that the case could go to trial, the BBC reports.

‘Believe in something’

With just days until the start of the NFL season, Nike launched its new campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its famed “Just Do It” slogan.

Tennis icon Serena Williams and NBA player LeBron James also star in the adverts, but it’s Kaepernick’s addition that has caused the biggest storm.

Featuring a black-and-white close-up of his face and the Nike “swoosh”, the advert is captioned with the words: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. #JustDoIt.”

In a nod to Kaepernick’s own trials and tribulations since leaving the NFL, Nike’s vice-president of brand for North America Gino Fisanotti told ESPN: “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.”

#JustBurnIt

Various media outlets report that since Nike launched its campaign yesterday the inclusion of Kaepernick has sparked a boycott of the brand. On social media a campaign has called for opponents to #JustBurnIt and destroy Nike items.

Reuters reports that Nike shares fell nearly 2% today but Bloomberg says the deal with Kaepernick is “worth the backlash” as the former 49ers QB is still one of the most popular players in the US.

Showdown ahead with the NFL?

With Nike announcing in March that it had signed an eight-year extension to be the NFL’s official kit provider, the sportswear firm’s decision to use Kaepernick could damage its relationship with the league.

Bloomberg’s Bruce Einhorn writes: “There is a risk of Nike upsetting its relationship with the NFL, which last week lost an attempt to dismiss Kaepernick’s lawsuit alleging collusion by the league to prevent him from signing with a team.”

Well done, Colin

While critics and opponents burn Nike items and boycott the brand, there has been a lot of praise for Kaepernick since he was announced as the face of the Just Do It campaign.

Fox News reports that Kaepernick had earned the support of a “diverse chorus” including ex-CIA director John Brennan and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Retweeting the new Nike advert, Brennan said on Twitter: “Colin Kaepernick drew our collective attention to the problem of continued racial injustice in America. He did so not to disrespect our flag but to give meaning to the words of the preamble of our Constitution – “in order to form a more perfect union.” Well done, Colin, well done.”

While Ahmadinejad tweeted: “The #NFL season will start this week, unfortunately once again @Kaepernick7 is not on a NFL roster. Even though he is one of the best Quarterbacks in the league. #ColinKaepernick #NFL.”

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