Nike has claimed Colin Kaepernick as the new face of their brand, sparking controversy. Kaepernick, former football quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and recent advocate against police brutality and racism, caused debate when he first knelt during the national anthem before a football game and then continued to kneel, encouraging other athletes to do the same.
The Nike advertisement consists of one major billboard of Kaepernick’s face atop Nike’s San Francisco location with the line “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” across the center.
Along with the billboard is the video advertisement depicting several inspirational athletes in their sport, including tennis player Serena Williams; Zeina Nassar, the hijab-wearing female boxer; and Isaiah Bird, a 10-year-old wrestler born without legs.
During the video footage of the athletes, Kaepernick narrates:“Don’t try to be the fastest runner in your school or the fastest in the world. Be the fastest ever. Don’t picture yourself wearing Odell Beckham Jr.’s jersey; picture Odell Beckham Jr wearing yours. Don’t settle for homecoming queen or linebacker; do both. Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Not only is Kaepernick the new sponsored athlete for the Nike brand, but Nike also contracted him to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan, with “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” referencing the lawsuit against the NFL last October.
After Kaepernick pursued the NFL in a collusion grievance last year, the lawsuit proceeded to an arbitrator hearing this August to determine the evidence in the case. The hearing ruled against the NFL’s claim of Kaepernick not having sufficient evidence for collusion, which allows his case to proceed with a trial.
Because of Nike’s sponsorship with Kaepernick, some are retracting loyalty to the brand.
The College of the Ozarks and Truett McConnell University, both private Christian universities, discontinued business with Nike. The president of Truett McConnell University, Dr. Emir Caner, decided on behalf of the athletics department to pull the brand because he believed Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem was a “mockery” of military and law enforcement.
Outraged by the campaign and Nike’s partnership with Kaepernick, others are taking to social media, cutting and burning the swoosh emblem off Nike products or destroying their Nike products all together.
The topic war continues on campus, as well.
Daniel Ziesemer, student athlete, does not agree with Kaepernick’s actions and views them as a “a statement that doesn’t apply to [Kaepernick] at all.”
“I think Nike saw an opportunity to bring in a new spokesperson who is currently relevant in today’s society,” Ziesemer said. “Everyone knows who Kaepernick is, and Nike understands that money is money regardless of where it comes from.”
Gabriela Elkins agrees with Kaepernick’s means of making a statement, though she sees Nike as capitalizing on the debate surrounding Kaepernick.
“Kaepernick is exercising his right to protest in a peaceful and non-violent way,” Elkins said.
“I think corporations have been realizing that the most effective marketing appeals to our core values,” she added. “Ads that address weighty concepts like beliefs and sacrifice in such a controversial way are naturally going to inspire some and provoke others.”
Other students, like Jessica Abbott, see the controversy stemming from misunderstanding.
“It’s a lot of back and forth of disrespect or claims of disrespect with no conversation,” Abbott said. “This is a country of free speech, and [Kaepernick] has every right to kneel. He should kneel if he doesn’t feel the values this country says they uphold, like equality, equity and fairness and justice. We need people in positions of influence to be speaking out because people without influence can speak out all they want, but nobody will listen.”
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