Nike has made activist-athlete Colin Kaepernick the centerpiece of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. The ad shows a black-and-white close-up of his face and bears the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
It’s a reference, of course, to the NFL’s alleged blackballing of the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback for his kneeling protests of the National Anthem to draw attention to police brutality against people of color. His suit against the NFL owners, charging collusion in freezing him out, proceeds – as does the suit of former teammate Eric Reid, who joined him in protest and finds himself similarly unemployed. (The suits might help corroborate each other, sportswriter John Feinstein told William Brangham of the “PBS Newshour” Tuesday, as collusion is difficult to prove.) Plus, the owners – who rushed to insist that the players had either to stand for the anthem this season or remain in the locker room for its duration – now have to negotiate this protocol with the players’ union, the NFL Players Association.)
So, the issue of the NFL protests, fanned by President Donald J. Trump’s appeal to his conservative base, continues to burn bright. And Nike – never afraid to scent the direction of a flame – has brought an athlete who remained on its roster back to the forefront.
(Trumpet took a surprisingly open-minded, dare we say mature approach to the Kaepernick ad.
“As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it,” Trump told The Daily Caller. “In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do. But I personally am on a different side of it.”
Gee, might his calm, measured, presidential even response have been a counter-reaction to Bob Woodward’s new book “Fear,” which portrays the White House staff trying to save the country and the president from his off-the-rails self? Then again, maybe not.)
Will the Kaepernick spot cost Nike financially? Undoubtedly, as the stock price dropped Tuesday. But at some point, a successful company, a successful person, chooses an audience. And only a naïve person fails to realize that a choice for something is also a choice against something else.
Just as basketball legend and Nike pitchman Michael Jordan turned down the chance to support the opposition of segregationist Republican Sen. Jesse Helms in another era, because “Republicans buy shoes,” Feinstein said that Nike may now be remembering that African-Americans do as well.
Are there enough African-American consumers and teenage ones, Nike’s target, to offset the boycotters? What is the intersection of Nike consumers and Trump supporters?
We’re about to find out.