Nike Ad with Kaepernick Causes Controversy


Anna Hulstedt, Features Editor

     A few weeks ago on September 5, the day before the NFL’s kickoff game, Nike released a new “Just Do It” commercial featuring Colin Kaepernick, the former starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. Although Kaepernick isn’t playing now, this disputable 20-second ad has caused an uproar for Americans that are familiar with his protests against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem throughout the 2016 football season.

     “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” is what Kaepernick states, “So don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.”

     When other players began to kneel following Kaepernick’s lead, many fans were extremely unhappy. Some people boycotted the NFL, choosing to watch something else on Sunday afternoons rather than football. Others stopped attending games. On the other hand, a lot of fans viewed Kaepernick’s actions as brave and courageous. Either way, Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem got the attention of fans, coaches, other players, and the general public.

     Currently, Kaepernick is a free agent in the NFL who is out of work. In other words, he’s available to draft but there haven’t been any teams willing to take him. Teams are afraid to draft someone that would cause a lot of distraction and potentially upset fans. According to some NFL analysts, teams have chosen quarterbacks that have played worse than Kaepernick, but it’s the impact of his protests that has kept him from being drafted.

     So why has Nike chosen to feature Colin Kaepernick in its recent commercial?

     With the protests of racial injustice during the national anthem at NFL games being a very current controversial topic, Nike took a risk by including Kaepernick in the ad. During the week that followed, several videos were posted of fans burning their Nike shoes and apparel. Nike stock dropped 2 percent as an initial reaction. However, Nike understood that this reaction would be expected, and only temporary.

     Stocks later went up seven percent and Nike even sold out of some merchandise. Nike is a worldwide company, and so to create this debatable ad would not have any effect on other countries because this issue is simply an American problem. According to surveys about the protests, younger people generally agree with the protests. Stock analysts understand that since Nike is a brand that appeals to a younger crowd, the products will continue to be purchased because the ad will have a positive impact on the majority of their customers.

     With this ad, it’s still unknown what Nike’s intent was: to support Kaepernick, compete against other athletic brands, or just simply to raise their stock.

     First of all, these issues wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Colin Kaepernick’s initial decision to kneel during the national anthem in the first place. His actions stand beyond what he did, but it appears as an act of disrespect to the American flag to spectators. If Kaepernick was truly passionate about mending the issues of racial injustice in our society, then he should have taken another approach. Kneeling for the anthem doesn’t DO anything. He could have donated to the cause or chosen to do something else instead. Spectators only seem to notice what the protest looks like, not what the protest is about. Therefore, the initial protests just created a lot of chaos and disrespected the flag that soldiers have fought so hard for, sometimes with their lives.

     This year, the national anthem isn’t even being shown on TV at the start of the games. So now, those who want to watch on TV don’t even get to see what happens during the national anthem. Only those who are at the game have the opportunity to observe who stands for the national anthem.

     All in all, the Nike ad only reinforces the idea that protesting in this way is completely fine. Including Kaepernick has caused too much dispute over a brand that should be supporting athletes that are actually playing in season. Instead, Nike should have taken a different approach to support the issues that Kaepernick was protesting about. For instance, for every Nike item purchased, $1 could be donated to an organization that helps with racial injustice in America. Nike is only encouraging athletes to follow in Kaepernick’s footsteps, where instead, athletes should be encouraged to stand up for their rights in ways that are not disrespectful to the National Anthem.