Just do it. Three days prior to the start of the NFL season, Nike did just that. Nike revealed their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign featuring the NFL’s most controversial face, Colin Kaepernick.
What Nike did was more than a well-crafted marketing strategy, it was a political statement. The campaign image is a black-and-white portrait of Kaepernick’s face with the quote, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Nike validated what Kaepernick had been fighting for since 2016.
Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, famously took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. This action faced nationwide backlash from patriotic NFL fans and alienated many of his fans. Supporting Kaepernick was a controversial and divisive choice, especially in his conservative hometown, Turlock, California.
That was not the case for this Turlockian. Turlock is a conservative city in the heart of the Central Valley and where I am from. When Kaepernick rose to fame, it seemed everyone in town was his biggest fan and proudly wore his jersey. But I witnessed our hometown turn their back on him.
They burned their jerseys, proclaimed his peaceful protest a disgrace, and a hotdog restaurant, Footers, took the CK7 named after him off their menu. Turlock publicly disowned him for not following the cookie cutter mold of how a professional athlete is “supposed” to behave. I understand that for many 49ers fans, football is an escape from their everyday lives, their own problems and worries, and they might not have seen the need for football to become political.
Kaepernick saw an opportunity to utilize one of the world’s biggest stages to expose a truth that many have the luxury to escape or ignore. Black America has fallen victim time and time again to police brutality and racial inequality.
After years of being shunned from the NFL and Turlock, Nike saw the value in supporting Kaepernick’s values — now more than ever. Nike’s ad was met with mixed responses.
Some were happy that Kaepernick is being supported by a major athletic apparel brand and others felt that once again, the NFL had become too political. Many people took to the internet to post videos of them burning their Nike items in protest.
Despite backlash, Nike’s online sales increased by 31 percent. This proved that Nike had chosen to stand on the right side of history.
Nike’s profits won’t cease to end there.
The company has a contract with the NFL through 2028, which means that every athlete’s uniform and official fan apparel will have the famous Nike swoosh.
All NFL players and their fans will be supporting Kaepernick and his cause by association. I commend Nike for supporting my hometown hero in a time where the NFL and Turlock has failed to.
I personally don’t care for a sport where they spend more time making calls than actually playing the game, but Thursday evening during the season opening game between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, I tuned in, not for the game, but for Kaepernick.
Seeing his Nike ad run gave me hope perhaps one day Turlock will support him as they once did. I hope Turlock sees what Nike sees in Kaepernick.