Oddly enough, Nike’s decision to rub Colin Kaepernick in the NFL’s face may have done team owners a favor — by refocusing fan outrage over the player protests from the league to the athletic-wear giant.
Calls for a Nike boycott and scenes of customers destroying their swoosh sportswear flooded social media after the world’s largest sporting goods company unveiled Monday an ad featuring Kaepernick with the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Nike doubled down Wednesday with the release of a commercial narrated by Kaepernick slated to debut during the first game of the 2018 NFL regular season Thursday on NBC, which pits the Atlanta Falcons against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough,” Kaepernick says in the two-minute video.
A number of celebrity athletes threw their support behind Nike’s embrace of Kaepernick, led by NBA superstar LeBron James, a Nike-sponsored athlete who’s also featured in the “Just Do It” 30-year anniversary ad campaign.
“I stand with anyone who believes in change … and I stand with Nike all day, every day,” James said Tuesday in remarks after receiving an award from Harlem’s Fashion Row.
At the other end was President Trump, who tweeted Wednesday that, “Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea it would be this way?”
The National Fraternal Order of Police condemned the ad campaign lionizing Kaepernick but also refused to join a boycott, saying such protests “often serve only to enrich the company — which is not what we want to do.”
The police organization also slammed Kaepernick’s $25,000 donation to Assata’s Daughters, an advocacy group named after Assata Shakur, the fugitive born Joanne Chesimard who escaped jail and fled to Cuba after being convicted in the murder of a police officer.
“If Nike chooses to create an ad campaign featuring a former quarterback who describes cops as ‘pigs’ and makes large donations to the family of a convicted cop killer and wanted fugitive, Joanne Chesimard, who murdered New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in cold blood in 1973, they are free to do so,” said the National FOP.
The company’s decision to showcase Kaepernick was seen as a slap in the face to the NFL, given that the league is embroiled in a legal battle with the free-agent quarterback, who has alleged that owners colluded against hiring him after he led the take-a-knee protests in 2016.
Nike, which signed a 10-year deal earlier this year as the NFL’s apparel provider, saw its stock price plunge Tuesday after the ad campaign was unveiled, although shares recovered slightly in Wednesday trading.
Meanwhile, the season is expected to begin without a resolution to the kneeling brouhaha. The league remains in negotiations with players on whether to require on-field personnel to stand for the flag, despite off-season efforts to settle the issue before it drags into another season.
Polls continue to show that most voters disagree with the refusal to stand for the national anthem. The Pop Polling survey of 894 registered voters released Wednesday found that 57 percent agreed the refusal to stand for the anthem is unpatriotic, while 43 percent disagreed.
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