Colin Kaepernick Controversy

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Ellie Culin

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Google Common License: Kaepernick playing for the 49ers
“Believe in something,” the ad reads, “even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Google Common License: Kaepernick playing for the 49ers “Believe in something,” the ad reads, “even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Cutting socks, burning shoes, and even banning Nike from entire towns – these are some of the blistering reactions to Nike’s recruitment of controversial football player Colin Kaepernick as the face of its advertising campaign.


Before Nike, Kaepernick was best known as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. In 2016, he began to draw attention by kneeling during the national anthem, protesting police brutality and other racial injustices in the United States. He quickly became a national figure; athletes spanning sports from soccer to ice hockey, as well as other public figures, joined the movement. However, not all of the attention was positive; thousands of protesters -including President Donald Trump- called for the NFL to fire Kaepernick, labeling him unamerican and disrespectful to veterans despite Kaepernick’s explanations (Masters and Mezzoflore).

When Nike announced that the company’s 30th anniversary advertisement campaign would feature Kaepernick, reactions were mixed. “Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN,” President Trump tweeted on September 5th, “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts” (Trump qtd in Boren). Interestingly, Ben Zahn III, the mayor of a Louisiana town, has reportedly banned local booster clubs and recreational organizations from purchasing Nike products, or “any product with the Nike logo” (Zahn qtd in May). Particularly offended customers have been throwing away, cutting, burning, or otherwise defacing their (already purchased) Nike products, posting videos on social media where they quickly go viral.

While many condemned Nike’s decision, there has also been an outpouring of support from the public and from influential figures. Polls done by Quinnipiac University and a SSRS Omnibus poll show that most people among ages 18 to 44 voted in approval of Nike’s decision. Online sales soared 31% after the Kaepernick ad aired, and, despite initial drops, Nike’s stock has climbed to reach an all time high of $84.47 on Thursday 9/13 (Boren).

To say the least, Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick in its 30th anniversary campaign has been polarizing. Some critics of Kaepernick believing him to be anti-American are disappointed and furious with the new ad, going so far as to burn their Nike products to prove their anger. However, Nike has not been drastically harmed by dissent. Quite the opposite; as recent stock gains show, Nike seems to have gained more support and benefited from the risky decision.



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