The de­bate over NFL ath­letes pro­test­ing rac­ism may have en­tered a new chap­ter over the week­end. Just days be­fore the sea­son kicks off, Nike, one of the most cul­tur­al­ly in­flu­en­tial brands in sports, made Colin Kaepernick one of the faces of the 30th anniversary of Nike's “Just Do It” cam­paign.

The move sug­gests that the com­pany is behind Kaepernick's ef­fort to draw at­ten­tion to the prev­a­lence of rac­ism and police bru­tal­i­ty in America.

On Labor Day, Kaepernick, who has not worked as a foot­ball play­er for more than a year and a half, tweeted an image of his face co­vered with the words “Believe in some­thing. Even if it means sac­ri­fic­ing ev­er­y­thing.” And Nike retweeted the post.

The Washington Post's Mi­chael Errigo and Rick Maese re­port­ed Mon­day:

Talks between Nike and Kaepernick’s camp started a few months ago, and the sides negotiated a new, multiyear pact, according to a person familiar with the agreement. Terms were not disclosed.
“It’s a top-level football deal, a deal that reflects him as an icon and an athlete, not just an athlete,” the person familiar with the agreement said.
The campaign represents a strong commitment by Nike, which wasn’t sure how to promote Kaepernick in recent years as he became a divisive figure. The protests during the national anthem, started by Kaepernick, embraced by other players throughout the league and criticized repeatedly by President Trump, have been a divisive issue for the league, players and fans. NFL ratings have declined since the protests began, though the cause is open to debate.
“It wasn’t a forgone conclusion that [Nike would] go this way, especially as he was being vilified,” the person familiar with the agreement said.

Nike's cam­paign spurred pro­tests from con­ser­va­tives up­set with their con­tinued em­brace of an ath­lete who they believe dis­res­pects American funda­men­tals. While Kaepernick and oth­er ath­letes who have par­tici­pat­ed in the pro­tests have been clear that their ac­tions are a­bout high­light­ing the prev­a­lence of race-based dis­crim­i­na­tion, con­ser­va­tive critics, most prom­i­nent­ly the president, have made the issue a­bout re­spect for the mil­i­tar­y, the flag and the na­tion­al an­them.

The po­lit­i­ci­za­tion of com­merce is noth­ing new. Boy­cotts of brands are in­creas­ing­ly com­mon in this po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, where cus­tom­ers are in­ter­est­ed in the ideo­logi­cal values of the lead­ers of the com­panies they pa­tron­ize — or at the very least their per­ceived values. There's a #grabyourwallet move­ment on the left urging con­sum­ers to boy­cott Trump-af­fili­at­ed com­panies and oth­ers. And Trump him­self has urged buy­ers to boy­cott brands that have an­gered him, like Harley Davidson did when they moved some pro­duc­tion to Eu­rope.

With that be­ing the case, some believe that Nike's decision was mo­ti­vated more by dol­lars than con­vic­tions. The larg­est dem­o­graph­ic group in the coun­try, millennials, also is the most eth­ni­cal­ly and ra­cial­ly di­verse. And per­haps as a re­sult, their politics lean left when it comes to issues of race and crim­i­nal jus­tice.

Still, the decision, and sub­se­quent boy­cott, may come at a cost for Nike: Its share price dropped near­ly 3 percent in trad­ing Tues­day morn­ing.

Nike cer­tain­ly knew they risked con­ser­va­tive ire by choos­ing to em­brace Kaepernick to this de­gree. But in an era many con­sider the most po­lit­i­cal­ly di­vis­ive in the last few de­cades, those lead­ing the mar­ket­place are be­ing asked to take a stand, as well. Nike de­cid­ed it couldn't re­main on the side­lines.