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Just Do It: Nike’s million dollar touchdown

Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels for the National Anthem before their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/TNS)

Story by Brian Beltran


Kneeling was never about the military. It was never about disrespecting the flag. It was always about speaking out about racial injustice in America.

Nike’s legendary status in the world of sports and media has never been bound by the expectations of society to fit an agenda. They are constantly pushing the envelope by endorsing outspoken activists that fit their iconic motto “Just Do It.”

While critics thought they had heard the last of Colin Kaepernick’s campaign to raise awareness about social injustice in America, Nike just reignited the discussion with their latest promotion of his journey as a player, and more importantly, as a social figure.

In 2016, former pro football star Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem of an NFL preseason game. The immediate backlash he received would not silence him though. He is now the face of Nike’s latest “Just Do It” campaign.

When the former football start initially began his infamous protest of the anthem, he sat on the bench instead of standing, an action that was met with outrage. After advice from Army Special Forces Veteran, Nate Boyer, Kaepernick began to kneel instead.

Critics of the action were so caught up in the football player’s blatant disrespect for the military that they failed to realize the motives and ideas behind it.

“Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect,” said Boyer.

Kaepernick attested that he meant no disrespect towards military veterans, who he has great respect for.

While angry fans and even owners of the NFL spoke about their disapproval towards the former 49ers quarterback, he rallied many teammates and other athletes to speak out on the same issue– racial injustice.

Although his efforts were noble, he was ultimately dismissed by his team and garnered no interest from other NFL organizations. He has since sued the NFL for collusion after he was seemingly blacklisted from the league for his protest of racism by American politicians.

And so his name became a sour topic. He had lost. No more noise about kneeling or protesting during professional sporting events were being tolerated. Until Nike resurfaced the issue by making Kaepernick the star of their most recognizable ad.

Nike released the 30th anniversary rendition of their “Just Do It” campaign on Labor Day this year. The tv spot features the former NFL star as the narrator who follows the unlikely journeys of global sports icons like Serena Williams and LeBron James.

“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It,” Kaepernick said.

Since the release of the ad, disgruntled people have began boycotting Nike. Several cases of people burning their shoes have been documented across social media. However, this hasn’t had a large impact on Nike’s success, as the company grossed $6 billion since the release of the ad.

Kaepernick and his supporters continue to maintain that they are targeting police brutality against people of color as the main cause of their movement. President Donald Trump and other naysayers continue to claim they are disrespecting the flag and what it symbolizes.

Although Kaepernick may not be on an NFL roster for the 2018 season, jerseys with his name have sold by the masses. He had the most selling jersey of 2017, and has since launched his own jersey independent of the NFL brand that quickly sold out.

“We 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,” said Nike executive Gino Fisanotti.

Nike’s faith in him as their lead man may have been a bold move, but it is proving to be a sensational success.

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Just Do It: Nike’s million dollar touchdown