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.