Over the weekend, Nike unveiled its newest ad campaign, commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of its motto “Just Do It.”
The ad features former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first NFL player to kneel during the “Star Spangled Banner” in protest of police brutality. The subject of ongoing political and racist attacks for his protest, Kaepernick has not played in the league since 2016, despite posting a career QB rating in the all-time top 20. He is currently suing the league, alleging that all 30 teams have colluded to prevent him from playing. (The full ad campaign, which features other athletes including Serena Williams, has not yet appeared.)
The campaign quickly prompted a backlash from conservatives, some of whom incorrectly claim that Kapernick is protesting the national anthem and the military. John Rich, of the country duo Big & Rich, posted this picture on Twitter:
Others filmed themselves burning their Nike gear:
A number of prominent athletes, including Williams and LeBron James, have voiced support for the campaign.
Nike will undoubtedly lose customers amid the backlash—the company’s stock has fallen nearly 3 percent on Tuesday. The NFL, which Nike sponsors, will likely not be pleased, although there is little that they can do about it. But the company surely knew this would happen. It’s making several bets with this campaign: that it will pay off long-term, further endearing it to prominent athletes; that Kaepernick’s supporters will make up the difference of lost customers; and that many of those whining on Twitter will return to the company after this news blows over.
While other corporations are making increasingly liberal statements, Nike’s decision to align itself with Kaepernick is still notable, especially given that Disney just surrendered to a bad faith campaign led by alt-right figurehead Mike Cernovich against Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. Nevertheless, Nike wouldn’t have made it if they didn’t think it was, at its core, a good business decision. And the publicity is only just getting started: President Donald Trump is sure to tweet about it before the NFL season kicks off on Sunday.