Nike has launched an ad campaign that features Colin Kaepernick and uses the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it costs you everything.” Some folks are upset because they think the ad — visible here on a street corner in New York — makes Kaepernick out to be a hero, so they are burning their Nike gear. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

The National Football League (NFL) season has started, and once again some of the action is off the field.

Two years ago, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, began sitting or kneeling during the national anthem to protest the treatment of persons of color by police. Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Other players followed Kaepernick’s lead.

The protests have upset lots of fans, including President Trump. They thought the players were being disrespectful to the flag, the police and the military. The president said NFL owners should fire any player who did not stand during the anthem.

Kaepernick became a free agent following the 2016 season. And even though he had better statistics than lots of NFL quarterbacks, no team wanted him. And Kaepernick is still not playing.

Now, Nike, the giant sports equipment company and a big sponsor of the NFL, has made an ad featuring Kaepernick with the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it costs you everything.” Some folks are upset because they think the ad makes Kaepernick out to be a hero, so they are burning their Nike gear.

The Nike ad and the protests can be confusing to kids. But here are some things to remember as people continue to talk about both.

Kaepernick and the other protesters are trying to call attention to a serious problem: police shootings. In 2017, 23 percent of the 987 people shot and killed by police in the United States were African American, according to a Washington Post database. But African Americans make up only 13 percent of the population. Kaepernick said that he believed police were targeting black people and that he wanted that to stop.

In addition, peaceful protests have a long history in this country. Through the years, people have marched to get the right to vote and equal treatment for women and African Americans, as well as to protest wars. So the peaceful protests such as the ones the players are engaged in are as American as the national anthem, the flag or football.

Some people argue, however, that the players should not protest at the games. These fans want sports to be a place where the problems of the world are kept away.

But protests are not supposed to make people feel comfortable. Protesters aim to force people to think about issues more important than a football game.

Finally, it’s important to remember when you watch the Nike ad featuring Kaepernick that Nike is trying to sell shoes. Nike’s campaign is trying to convince you that buying the company’s shoes will somehow make you a cool crusader for people’s rights.

But buying shoes doesn’t make you cool or a civil rights crusader. It just makes you a consumer.