ESPN reported on Monday (September 3) that Colin Kaepernick, who won the right to bring his collusion grievance against the National Football League (NFL) to trial last week, features in Nike’s new promotional campaign for the 30th anniversary of its ubiquitous slogan, “Just Do It.” Kaepernick has been on the apparel giant’s endorsement roster since 2011, when he still had a spot on the San Francisco 49ers, and through his kneeling protest against anti-Black police violence and alleged blacklisting by the NFL.
BREAKING: Nike had been paying Colin Kaepernick all along, waiting for the right moment. That moment is now, as he becomes the face of the company’s 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign. pic.twitter.com/uccpDStbq5— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 3, 2018
Kaepernick now headlines a new TV spot for the brand. Released yesterday (September 5), it features Kaepernick narrating the accomplishments of other athletes, including fellow campaign star Serena Williams.
ESPN notes that the spot will air during tonight’s (September 6) NFL season opener between the Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. A Nike spokesperson also told The New York Times that the commercial will air during remaining U.S. Open tennis matches, and this weekend’s Major League Baseball and college football games.
Kaepernick’s participation in the campaign has received mixed responses since the first black-and-white promotional image, which also occupies a massive billboard over Nike’s San Francisco store, debuted on Monday. Many of Kaepernick’s opponents took to social media with threats to boycott the company and images of burned and cut up apparel.
Meanwhile, supporters like LeBron James (whose likeness also appears in the commercial) publicly stood by the brand and Kaepernick. And while Kaepernick’s advocacy still upsets law enforcement groups like the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), which called on officers to boycott “all Nike products,” the National Black Police Association (NBPA) sent a letter to Nike CEO Mark Parker praising the company’s inclusion of Kaepernick.
From the letter, attributed to NBPA chair Sonia Y.W. Pruitt:
Your inclusion of Mr. Kaepernick in your ads seems appropriate to us. We live in a country where the First Amendment is a right of the people. Mr. Kaepernick chose to exercise his right where his passion was—on the football field. NAPO believes that Mr. Kaepernick’s choice to openly protest issues surrounding police brutality, racism and social injustices in this country makes him anti-police. On the contrary, the NBPA believes that Mr. Kaepernick’s stance is in direct alignment with what law enforcement stands for—the protection of a people, their human rights, their dignity, their safety and their rights as American citizens. NAPO has shown an adeptness at maintaining the police status quo and the tone in their letter further validates Mr. Kaepernick’s concerns, as it undermines the trust that is needed by law enforcement in order for the profession to maintain its legitimacy. That NAPO has chosen this matter to take a stance, only perpetuates the narrative that police are racist, with no regard, acknowledgement, respect or understanding of the issues and concerns of the African-American community.
The campaign also prompted another critique: that Nike, a company with a history of exploitative labor practices and politics, only featured Kaepernick to further its corporate bottom line. “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” host Trevor Noah discussed this issue in a “Between the Scenes” segment that was published online yesterday:
On Tuesday, NFL Network analyst Ian Rapoport tweeted a statement from Jocelyn Moore, the league’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, about Kaepernick and social justice issues. “The social issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action,” she wrote.
ESPN notes that Nike recently inked a new multibillion-dollar deal to remain the NFL’s primary apparel supplier for the next decade.