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Nike Ad Sparks Controversy

Illustration by Maya San Diego

Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, is the face of Nike’s new 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. The commercial for the campaign features a myriad of young athletes, including notable stars Lebron James and Serena Williams. The crux of the ad can be summed up in one of Kaepernick’s quotes featured in the video: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

At first glance, it is an inspiring ad meant to encourage everyone, no matter how disadvantaged they are, to push their limits and dream bigger than they can imagine. However, while the ad has received  a lot of praise, it has also received loads of backlash. This can be attributed to the controversy created two years ago, when Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality towards African Americans in the U.S.

Since the Nike ad reveal, pictures and videos have surfaced on social media of people burning their Nike products in protest against the new ad campaign. College of the Ozarks in Missouri has cut ties with Nike as its athletic apparel provider. Additionally, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and an ally of President Trump, told USA Today Sports that Nike’s new ad campaign is causing the school to re-evaluate its relationship with the apparel company.

“It’s just something we’re exploring,” Falwell said in an interview with USA Today Sports. “If it’s really how the leadership of the company feels and they’re attacking law enforcement and military folks on purpose, then why deal with them when there’s plenty of others out there.”

Whether or not Nike is using Kaepernick as a marketing ploy is unclear, but either way their strategy seems to be working. In the weekend after the ads’ release, online sales increased by 31 percent according to USA Today Sports.

Nike also expressed confidence in their decision to go with Kaepernick. According to ESPN, Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s brand vice president for North America, reported that they “believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward.”

Meanwhile, more National Football League (NFL) players have taken to kneeling during national anthem the NFL’s opening day national anthem, including Miami Dolphins wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson. Afterwards, Kaepernick responded to this event on twitter: “My brothers continue to show their unwavering strength by fighting for the oppressed! They have not backed down, even when attacked and intimidated. Their courage will move the world forward! Love is at the root of our resistance!”