A 2018 Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick received an Emmy nomination Wednesday in the outstanding commercial category.
The ad, created by Portland-based firm Wieden+Kennedy, featured the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback delivering the tagline for a major ad campaign: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
By making Kaepernick a centerpiece of the campaign, Nike earned the wrath of conservative pundits and politicians, including President Trump, who has been sharply critical of Kaepernick’s role in originating the NFL’s player protests during the national anthem. Those demonstrations, meant to bring attention to issues of racial injustice, have been viewed by some as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the military.
“What was Nike thinking?” Trump tweeted shortly after the ad was unveiled in September, just as the NFL was kicking off its regular season. The president also tweeted around that time that Nike was “getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts."
“Nike’s leaders anticipated the campaign’s ripple effect likely would include a serious boycott from the opposition, but they took a calculated risk,” Entrepreneur magazine wrote in October. “Outraged customers posted videos of themselves burning Nike products and cutting or ripping the company’s logo from their gear. But the ad ultimately strengthened Nike’s dedicated customer base. Buying Nike products became its own statement of support for the causes Kaepernick represents.”
Kaepernick began his protests in August 2016, at the start of what would turn out to be his final NFL season. After parting ways with the 49ers in March 2017 and finding little interest from other teams, he filed a grievance against the league, accusing team owners of colluding to ostracize him and punish him for his activism.
The NFL in February arrived at a settlement with Kaepernick and his former 49ers teammate Eric Reid for an undisclosed sum that was subsequently reported to be less than $10 million to be split between them.
This month, Nike pulled a shoe decorated with a 13-star, “Betsy Ross” version of the American flag after Kaepernick reportedly complained to company executives. The ex-quarterback was variously reported to have objected to the flag’s link to a period of widespread slavery in the United States or to its recent co-option as a symbol by white supremacist groups.
The nominated ad highlighted a number of athletes, including Serena Williams and LeBron James, both of whom have also used their platforms to promote social causes. Others who appeared in “Dream Crazy” included the U.S. women’s national soccer team, wheelchair athlete Megan Blunk, youth wrestler Isaiah Bird — who was born without legs — and hijab-clad German boxer Zeina Nassar.
Vying with Nike for the Emmy will be four other commercials, including offerings from Apple, Netflix and Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing gun violence.
Upon releasing “Dream Crazy,” Nike said the “common denominator” among the athletes in it, both famous and relatively obscure, was that they all “leverage the power of sport to move the world forward.”