Colin Kaepernick: The New Face of Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign

 

Two years ago, former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick sparked national attention by taking a knee during the national anthem as preseason began. The reason? His silent but controversial protest was to take a stand against police brutality and social injustices, specifically towards people of color dying at the hands of police in the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Colin Kaepernick said, via NFL.com. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way; there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick’s protest made him a polarizing figure in American sports, receiving the attention from NFL fans and others including President Donald Trump who has used Twitter to weigh in his disapproval of Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem. Trump has tweeted publicly that the protest was a “total disrespect for our great country” and that “the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race, it is about respect for our country, flag, and the National anthem” and the “NFL must respect this.” Some see Kaepernick’s protest as anti-military or anti-flag. Kaepernick has made it clear that his protest is not anti-military and some veterans have expressed support for his actions.

Two years later, Colin Kaepernick no longer plays in the NFL. Supporters of Kaepernick assume he is being blackballed for his advocacy and earlier this year Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL. The former quarterback claims that NFL owners conspired within each other to keep him out of the league because of his protests. According to the Huffington Post, a similar grievance is currently pending by safety Eric Reid, who’s played with Kaepernick in San Francisco and joined him in his protests. Reid remains unsigned as well.

But just two weeks ago, the unsigned, former quarterback became the new face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It”  campaign. Kaepernick tweeted the new ad that shows a close up of his face with the slogan,

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

And just two days later, as part of the campaign, Nike aired its first “Just Do It” video narrated by Kaepernick. The two-minute video highlights superstar athletes LeBron James, Serena Williams, and others. The ad also features young athletes who compete against various challenges touching the issues of gender, disabilities, and weight loss.

“People say your dreams are crazy. If they laugh at what you think you can do, good,” says Kaepernick in the video.

The overall theme is about athletes pushing for bigger dreams. The ad and the campaign came out a few days before the start of the NFL season. The NFL did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Almost instantly, after Kaepernick’s tweet of the ad, people flooded to Twitter to express their split reactions. Terms “Nike” and “Just do it” became top trending words on Twitter and according to the Washington Post, that following morning the hashtag #NikeBoycott was one of the most used on Twitter.

Many non-supporters of Kaepernick could be seen posting videos and pictures of themselves destroying their Nike gear in response to the company working with Kaepernick. Some of these videos showed people specifically burning their Nike brand shoes and cutting the logo off their clothes.

But Kaepernick has many supporters that stand behind him as well. He has gained much recognition from prominent leaders like former President Barack Obama, who according to the Revelist, has acknowledged that the protest is difficult for members of the military to accept but Kaepernick is exercising his constitutional rights by protesting.

“I’d rather have young people engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than those who are just sitting on the sidelines,” the Former President said at a press conference during the G20 summit.

And to shed some more light against the backlash over the 30th-anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, Nike saw an increase in the brand’s sales by 31-percent over the Labor day weekend. Kaepernick is even set to receive one of Harvard University’s highest honors on October 11th, the W.E.B. DuBois Medal.

“The medal honors those who have made significant contributions to African and African American history and culture, and more broadly, individuals who advocate for intercultural understanding and human rights,” Harvard said in a statement. For those who don’t know, Kaepernick is the founder of the “Know Your Rights” campaign, a non-profit organization that helps raise awareness on self-empowerment.

What do you think about Kaepernick and the Nike campaign?

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