On Monday, September 3, Nike debuted its 30th-anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, with advertisements featuring Serena Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., and Colin Kaepernick. The announcement immediately started trending on Twitter when people saw Kaepernick reappear in the news. The ad featuring Kaepernick read “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, became a controversial figure when he decided to protest police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem of the third preseason game of the 2016 season. Originally thinking to sit during the anthem, Kaepernick consulted a US veteran, who advised him to kneel instead, which would be much more respectful.
Despite his efforts to keep the protest respectful and peaceful, many conservative figures still accused Kaepernick of disrespecting the nation and all it stands for, in addition to the soldiers and veterans who have served under it. His actions drew harsh comments from Fox News, conservative talk show hosts Tomi Lahren and Sean Hannity, and even the President of the United States.
Kaepernick’s protest is considered a primary reason as to why he has not been picked up by a team after severing his contract with the 49ers in March 2017, despite many—including former teammate Eric Reid—agreeing that his stats show he is an NFL-worthy quarterback. Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL and its 32 teams in November 2017, following a decision by the Seahawks to pass on giving him a tryout. He alleged that the league and its teams have rejected him.
Nike’s decision to include Kaepernick in their ad campaign, two years after the incident, has resparked the controversy on Twitter. The move drew rebuke from several conservative voices who called to boycott Nike. Individuals in support of the boycott went as far as cutting the Nike logo off their socks, and burning their already-paid-for Nike shoes, all the while posting photos, videos, and outraged statuses on social media.
While Nike did receive plenty of criticism, it also received its fair share of praise and support. Many jumped onto the #NikeBoycott hashtag to mock those burning their shoes and to show their support for the company and Kaepernick. Serena Williams tweeted “Especially proud to be part of the Nike family today. #justdoit.”