Spearheading the 30th anniversary of Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed a controversial endorsement deal with the brand on Sept. 3, 2018. Kaepernick has faced backlash from the NFL ever since his protests against police brutality first made headlines in the summer of 2016. Through his demonstrations of kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, Kaepernick inspired many athletes to do the same, eventually receiving harsh criticism from NFL executives. When his contract expired following the 2016-‘17 season, Kaepernick was left unsigned, and the former star is now out of the league. However, the activist’s message has recently reached a new—and similarly large—stage: Nike.
“I’m glad that Nike is taking a chance on Kaepernick, especially because they both stand for such similar ideas regarding racial equality,” said Andrew Cho (10), football enthusiast. “Kaepernick has always been shunned by the media and the NFL, but now that he is signed with Nike, he will be able to send his message in tandem with the ubiquitous slogan: ‘Just Do It’.”
Nike’s ad campaign with Kaepernick instantly flooded social media and was met with mixed reactions from the public, with some praising the advertisement and others criticizing both it and the company. The campaign has stirred up conversation of a boycott against Nike products, with some social media users going as far as to destroy and burn the brand’s merchandise. Despite the negative attention the advertisement has generated, Nike has been able to profit greatly from the partnership. According to The New York Times, Nike’s stock closed an all time high on Sept. 13, exactly ten days after the partnership was announced. The brand also improved its outreach and gained an additional 170,000 Instagram followers following the airing of the Kaepernick advertisement, according to CNN Money.
“I think Colin Kaepernick makes a controversial, yet interesting choice as a spokesman for the company,” said James Tyvand, social studies teacher. “I support Nike’s position, and I think that they are well within their rights, both as a company and as an organization, to choose anybody within reasonable bounds to promote their product.”
Despite the controversy that it has stirred in the United States, the partnership between Kaepernick and Nike has had little negative impact on the brand’s popularity at SIS. In a survey conducted on Oct. 3, 13 out of 37 students were wearing some form of Nike apparel that day. All participants of the survey also reported that they were either ambivalent or supportive of the brand’s decision and stated that they will not boycott Nike in the future.
“Ever since the deal between Nike and Kaepernick was announced, I planned on buying more Nike apparel,” said David Lim (10), varsity cross-country athlete. “The quality of their products are as good as ever, and by supporting the brand, I would be supporting a much greater cause: the fight for African American rights.”