Is This Kaepernick Nike Ad Really as Bad as It Seems?


Ruby Bernier, Opinion Writer

On the week of September 2nd, a Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick was released. The picture ad features a photo of Kaepernick with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” across his face. Upon initial glimpse of the print ad, some Nike customers were filled with anger and outrage that the company would endorse him. Kaepernick first showed his protest to systemic racism and police brutality in America in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem; many other players eventually following in the same path. The video ad featured other prominent athletes of color, such as Serena Williams and Lebron James.

The reactions online were very mixed, varying from rave reviews to people destroying their previously purchased Nike products. After the ad release, Twitter user Sean Clancy posted a tweet reading, “First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive?” The tweet referring to kneeling during NFL games, it then goes on to talk about Nike, also attaching a video of Clancy burning a pair of Nike shoes in protest. Several other tweets around the time of the ad released also featured Nike brand shoes in flames, one even cutting the Nike logo off of their socks. Missouri’s College of the Ozarks even removed all Nike branded sports gear from their athletics programs in response.

Since the beginning of Colin Kaepernick’s involvement in peaceful protest, it’s always been about police brutality and racism in America. Neither the kneeling or the ad have ever been in direct opposition to the flag, the national anthem, or the country. In fact, the Nike ad itself was about overcoming and succeeding–it was merely Kaepernick’s presence and history that was upsetting to some. Despite that, when people object Kaepernick or the ad, they are ultimately endorsing police brutality.

In The Washington Post article, “Nike bet that politics would sell. Looks like it was wrong.”  Megan McArdle makes the statement, “Maybe Americans aren’t divided on this one. Maybe they agree on what they want: a marketplace that’s above politics…” People like to see their views reflected in the media; they like to know their ideas are supported. When ideas are reflected in the public, it more easily unifies people to overcome different societal issues.

While those in opposition to Kaepernick and the ad keep searching for new issues with the video, like it’s a disrespect to the flag or the country, Nike hasn’t taken a hit. The company’s shares initially took a 3% hit, but that quickly turned around. Sales later climbed 31%, showing that the critics were outnumbered after all. Companies typically don’t venture into politics often, undoubtedly afraid of the backlash, and while Nike’s choice to partner with Kaepernick was a bold one, it paid off. In showing their support of Kaepernick at this time of political divide, Nike made great strides in unifying to try and fix these issues we face in our country.