Nike has been the subject of controversy for its new ad for the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign, which featured NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has been the face of an ongoing protest to raise awareness about racial injustice. He demonstrated his beliefs by kneeling during the National Anthem every game until he later opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Two Warrior writers discuss Nike’s decision to run the ad.
by Ayana Antoine ‘20
Nike is a 29.6 billion dollar company with a product and marketing connection to just about every sport in the world. Millions of Americans buy Nike products, but recently there has been a push to boycott Nike after the release of a controversial ad featuring Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick left the NFL in 2016 after being blacklisted by league owners for kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality in black and brown communities. Many saw his actions as disrespectful to the flag and veterans. So unsurprisingly, the same people didn’t take well to Nike using such a polarizing figure in its ad.
The practical effect of boycotting a company as large as Nike is likely very small. Nike owns Converse, Cole Haan and Hurley International. Truly boycotting Nike is also unrealistic because the NFL, NBA and MLB endorse its products.
Nike very strategically executed this ad campaign. Its online sales have increased over 31 percent since the launch of the ad. In spite of boycotts against Nike for featuring Kaepernick, he is planning to become an even more visible and outspoken activist in the months to come.
Many companies have the influence to raise awareness about social issues but don’t out of fear they’ll lose public support. Considering that no NFL teams even wanted Kaepernick due to his social activism, Nike’s choice to make him the face of this campaign shows the company meant their message of believing in something.
by Justin Risher ‘21
A common cliche is that companies are judged by their bottom line; in other words, how much money they’re making for their shareholders. By that criteria, Nike’s ad featuring Colin Kaepernick was a dumb decision.
Although sales and stocks have come back up, Nike’s reputation still took a hit with many consumers. #NikeBoycott was a trending topic on Twitter, with some people posting photos and videos of ripped Nike socks and burned Nike sneakers. Some stores, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Gym Supply Co, have stopped selling the clothing that promotes the advertisements. These stores realize that it’s not their place to get in the middle of a fight about controversial political and social issues.
The reason that Kaepernick’s protest was so offensive to millions of Americans is because he was a football player first and foremost. He is paid millions of dollars to play a sport for people’s entertainment, not to spread his political views via a huge audience that watches the sport he plays. The expectation for people in all sorts of careers is that they keep their political, social, and religious views to themselves when they’re in the workplace. Kaepernick’s job is to perform at a high level on the football field rather than advertise his opinions to others. Although the issue Kaepernick is fighting for is a real one and needs to be addressed, Kaepernick went about it the wrong way.
Nike made the mistake mixing sports and politics. They promoted political views instead of selling shoes.