Colin Kaepernick’s New Nike Deal Ignites NFL Controversy

When Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick, the ex-San Francisco quarterback who sparked a nationwide controversy by peacefully protesting police brutality against the black community, was the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, the reaction was divided.

Those outraged that Nike sided with Kaepernick started posting videos and pictures of them burning their Nike shoes and cutting out the Nike logo of their shirts and socks.

However, there were others who were thrilled that the world’s largest supplier of all things athletic threw its weight behind Kaepernick and flooded the company with support. It paid off, as in the days since Nike’s announcement, its online sales jumped up 31% (after an initial dip.)

Nike did excellent research with knowing its audience and how to market to it. 4C, a marketing technology company, mentioned that Nike’s most engaged audience is the “Make It and Know It,” which is one of 70 consumer categories.

The characteristics for this group tend to be successful in personal and professional lives, leading “robust” social lives of travel, entertainment and streaming services.

This group of people also share a deep concern for racial equality, as well as concerns about the gun control and clean water access.

To be clear, Kaepernick has repeatedly stated that his kneeling during the anthem was never about veterans; it was never about the flag and it was never about the United States military. What Kaepernick (and others who followed suit) did was peacefully protest police brutality, specifically involving the black community.

Kaepernick was protesting the police’s (usually) fatal treatment concerning the black community (a black person is 3x more likely to get killed by the police compared to a white person) and his silent kneel was to bring awareness to this giant problem in America. He did it respectfully and peacefully. And he (and many others) made it abundantly clear that was the reason that they kneeled.

Kaepernick has found support within police organizations. The National Black Police Officers Association (NBPA) spoke out after the National Association Police Organizations (NAPO) penned a public letter asking for police officers across the country to boycott Nike.

The NBPA did not like that at one bit, claiming that if the NAPO had consulted with them, they would have known not to speak for them or even published the letter. 

This is not the first time that the police have supported Kaepernick and the cause; in 2017, retired and current NYPD police officers gathered in Brooklyn Bridge Park to show support in a peaceful demonstration.

The NFL has responded: “The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity,” NFL executive vice president of communications and public affairs Jocelyn Moore said Tuesday in a statement.

We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”

Meanwhile, Nike’s stock is doing just fine and Kaepernick has successfully continued the important conversation about police brutality and accountability despite the hyperactive and unpredictable nature of today’s media cycle.