Nike, which is under contract until 2028 to supply uniforms to NFL teams, revealed Kaepernick as one of the faces of its 30th anniversary “Just do it” campaign this week.
“Believe in something,” one ad read, “even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Kaepernick and Nike both tweeted a two-minute video from the ad campaign Wednesday afternoon, while ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that a version of the ad is scheduled “as of now” to air during Thursday night’s nationally televised opener between the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. NBC confirmed that Nike purchased ad time during Thursday’s game.
“If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what you think you can do, good. Stay that way,” Kaepernick says in the commercial’s voice-over. “Because what nonbelievers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult; it’s a compliment.
“Don’t try to be the fastest runner in your school, or the fastest in the world. Be the fastest, ever,” he continues. “Don’t picture yourself wearing OBJ’s [Odell Beckham Jr.] jersey; picture OBJ wearing yours. Don’t settle for homecoming queen or linebacker; do both. Lose 120 pounds and become an iron man, after beating a brain tumor. Don’t believe you have to be like anybody to be somebody.”
Images of athletes both famous and obscure flash by, including a young wrestler with no legs, soccer prodigy Alphonso Davies, one-handed Seattle Seahawks rookie Shaquem Griffin, U.S. soccer stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and LeBron James, shown both playing basketball and opening a school in Akron, Ohio.
“Don’t become the best basketball player on the planet; be bigger than basketball,” Kaepernick says during the James montage. “Believe in something,” he later says, in front of a fluttering American flag, “even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Serena Williams appears near the ad’s conclusion, with Kaepernick saying, “If you’re a girl from Compton, don’t just become a tennis player. Become the greatest athlete, ever. Yeah. That’s more like it.”
“So don’t ask if your dreams are crazy,” he says. “Ask if they’re crazy enough.”
The spot furthers Nike’s controversial commitment to Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, with the company betting on his continued popularity and relevance. The quarterback had the league’s top-selling jersey several times since his demonstrations during the playing of the national anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality began to roil the league in the summer of 2016.
Kaepernick has also drawn the support of star athletes from outside football, Williams and James chief among them. Trump, meanwhile, has called for owners to fire “any son of a bitch” who didn’t stand for the anthem. Kaepernick, who is suing the NFL because he believes owners have conspired to keep him unsigned, had been under contract with Nike since 2011 but was not actively used until rival companies showed interest in him
Trump criticized Nike this week for using Kaepernick in the campaign. In an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller on Tuesday, Trump said of Nike: “I think it’s a terrible message that they’re sending, and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there’s a reason for them doing it, but I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it.”
Nike’s stock took an initial dip after the announcement, but the company is wagering on long-term success with younger customers.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Nike stock was up slightly after a 3.2 percent dip Tuesday.
The timing of the Kaepernick campaign, which came three days before the NFL season opener, may have been a surprise, but its sentiment was not, given that James and Williams, two of the company’s biggest stars, have also been outspoken about social injustice and police brutality.
“He’s done a lot for the African American community, and it’s cost him a lot. It’s sad,” Williams said of Kaepernick after reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Tuesday. “Having a huge company back him … could be a controversial reason for this company, but they’re not afraid. I feel like that was a really powerful statement to a lot of other companies.”
James, in an appearance at a fashion event in New York, said he supports “anyone who believes in change. … I stand with Nike all day, every day.”
The Nike ad also prompted the NFL to comment positively on a player with whom it is in litigation.
“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,” Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, said in a Tuesday statement. “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
Others agreed with Trump, and social media users documented themselves destroying Nike apparel and shoes in protest. On “Fox & Friends,” Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson warned that society would “fall apart” because Nike is supporting Kaepernick. He called Kaepernick “a hapless kid” and said that the “sinister” company was “profiting from him and his attacks on the United States.”
Meanwhile, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are attempting to work out a new national anthem policy, with the season-opening game set for Thursday night. As for TV ratings, we’ll soon see whether the president is correct. Ratings were down 9.7 percent overall in 2017 after dropping 8 percent in 2016. The average game drew an audience of 14.9 million viewers, down from the 16.5 million who had tuned in to watch in 2016. “Sunday Night Football” remained the No. 1 show for the seventh straight year with an average of 18.2 million viewers, down from 2016’s 20.3 million.