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When A Brand Chooses Sides

By Annalece Montgomery

Flashback to August 2016 – Colin Kaepernick has caused a stir and a movement by deciding to kneel during the National Anthem in protest of racial injustice. Fans, athletes, coaches, team staff, and just about everyone else was divided and torn. While some were cheering on Kaepernick for making a statement, others were booing him for disrespecting those who have served in the armed forces. Following that season, he entered free agency and has not been signed to any NFL rosters, despite having 72 TDs, 12,271 passing yards, 2,300 rushing yards and a 88.9% passer rating in his career.

That brings us to yesterday, when Nike unveiled Kaepernick as the face of their “Just Do It” campaign, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. He has been with the brand since 2011, when he made his start in the NFL. Although terms of the new contract have not been publicly announced, it reportedly gives him his own branded line consisting of shoes, shirts, jerseys and more, and includes a contribution to his charity, Know Your Rights. It also puts him “in the top [pay] bracket of NFL players with Nike,” even though he isn’t currently playing in the league.

The announcement comes on the heels of arbitrator Stephen B. Burbank sending Kaepernick’s grievance with the NFL to trial, denying the league’s request to throw out claims that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests. As a reminder, Nike is the current NFL sponsor for uniforms. That’s right, not only is Nike standing for what they believe in with this campaign, but they are sending a message to their partner.

We’ve been wondering for awhile now what the fans would do if they were in charge at the NFL, but now we’re really more interested in what they would do if they were in charge at Nike. If the fans were calling the shots at Nike, not only do we think they would continue with Colin Kaepernick as the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, but they would include other athletes that have faced the same criticisms. We’re talking about Eric Reid (San Francisco), Brandon Marshall (Seattle), Kenny Stills (Miami), and Seth DeValve (Cleveland), among others. While it can be more than just argued that Kaepernick has received the biggest blows as a result of his protests, we don’t think the fans would want the other athletes excluded.

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