He hasn't stepped foot on the gridiron in nearly two years, but former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still making headlines. Since he began a protest of police brutality by kneeling for the National Anthem in 2016, Kaepernick has stirred passionate responses from all points of view, all the way to the White House.
Whether you believe he's exercising his freedom of speech, pointing out valid injustices, disrespecting the U.S. flag, military and local police, or indulging in self-aggrandizement, it's clear that he's made an impact on national discussion.
Certainly Nike seems to believe that Kaepernick will continue to make an impact. The multi-billion dollar sports retail company has signed him to be part of its new "Just Do It" ad campaign, which also includes sports superstars such as Serena Williams and Odell Beckham Jr. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kaepernick's Nike contract has been described as a "top of the line" deal.
The announcement of the ad campaign reportedly caught the NFL by surprise – in response, they released a measured statement:
"The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action."
Former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer (who originally suggested kneeling during the anthem to Kaepernick) suggests a moderate approach to the controversy.
Some are offended, some aren't, it's really that simple. To push roughly 20 million Veterans onto one side or the other of the Anthem debate (bc you know a Vet who feels a certain way) is just stupid. We're as diverse (and sometimes just as stupid) as any other American microcosm— Nate Boyer (@NateBoyer37) September 4, 2018
Elsewhere, the Kaepernick-Nike team-up has engendered some extreme responses. Some have already taken to Twitter to burn Nike gear in protest of Kaepernick's deal, and what he stands for.
First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive? pic.twitter.com/4CVQdTHUH4— Sean Clancy (@sclancy79) September 3, 2018
Some have even suggested an "alternate" Nike campaign:
Pat Tillman was a NFL football player that quit the NFL to join the army after 9/11. In 2004 he died in Afghanistan due to friendly fire. pic.twitter.com/qUbOYn7R87— KEEM 🍿 (@KEEMSTAR) September 4, 2018
Others have taken to social media to support Kaepernick and Nike:
Colin Kaepernick continues to be penalized for telling the truth about the racist history and present of this country. I stand with Colin today and every day. We must tell the truth in public, even when the risk runs high. pic.twitter.com/IDyvFwke7J— deray (@deray) September 4, 2018
It will be interesting to see if this all ends up affecting Nike's bottom line, but it certainly looks like Kaepernick will stay in the national conversation for some time to come.