(Reuters) A day after Nike unveiled an ad campaign featuring controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick, there was no shortage of reactions yesterday.
Leading the way were the NFL and President Donald Trump.
“I think it’s a terrible message,” Trump, speaking to The Daily Caller, said of Nike using Kaepernick to commemorate the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” campaign. “Nike is a tenant of mine (in a building at 6 East 57th St. in New York). They pay a lot of rent.”
When discussing the matter further, Trump said he doesn’t like Nike’s decision but also respects the company’s right to hire the spokesperson it chooses.
“As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it,” Trump said. “In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do, but I personally am on a different side of it.”
The latter comments toward Nike are a much different — and less confrontational — stance than the president has typically used when discussing or tweeting about NFL players protesting social injustice during the national anthem.
The NFL’s statement spoke more to the social issues that Kaepernick and other protesting players are trying to bring to the national forefront.
“The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity,” president of communications and public affairs Jocelyn Moore said in a statement. “We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
Shortly after the league’s statement was released, ESPN reported that “multiple sources” confirmed the NFL received no advance notice of the ad campaign until Nike launched it Monday.
Kaepernick has an active collusion grievance against the NFL, which cleared a hurdle last week when the league’s request to dismiss the grievance was rejected. A trial hearing that requires testimony from NFL owners could happen at some point in the future.
One of those owners, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, spoke about Nike in relation to the Kaepernick ad yesterday, but kept it brief, citing the ongoing grievance. “I have tremendous respect for Nike and Phil Knight and everything they’ve meant to sports,” Jones said on 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas. “Because I’m in court and being sued, this is litigation and I’m not going to be able to comment on it.”
Kaepernick is entering his second NFL season without being on a roster after he began sitting and later kneeling in protest of racial injustice during the national anthem in August 2016.
A Nike ad released on Monday featured a black-and-white close-up of Kaepernick’s face and the words, “Believe in something. Even it if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.”
ESPN reported that Nike kept paying Kaepernick — who signed with the brand in 2011 — for two years despite not using him in ads in order to bring him back at the right time.
Nike has been the NFL’s licensed-apparel maker since the league switched from Reebok in 2012. In March, the sides signed a new eight-year extension to their agreement, which now runs through 2028.
After news broke Monday of Nike’s Kaepernick ad, the company’s stock was down more than 3 percent yesterday amid numerous social media posting showing people burning or ruining Nike apparel. However, the Robinhood stock brokerage, which tends to have younger users, told Business Insider that “investors on (the app) are buying Nike stock 300 percent more than they are selling, compared to 12 percent last week.”