NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nike Inc chose Colin Kaepernick, the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem as a protest against racism, as the face of advertisements commemorating its “Just Do It” slogan’s 30th anniversary, a move that could draw U.S. President Donald Trump’s ire.
FILE PHOTO – San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick pumps his fist as he acknowledges the cheers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on December 24, 2016. REUTERS/Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
The former NFL quarterback on Monday posted a black-and-white close-up of himself on Instagram and Twitter featuring the Nike logo and “just do it” slogan as well as a quote, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
ESPN reported Nike’s decision to use Kaepernick as part of the ad campaign. Nike retweeted Kaepernick’s post, but representatives for Nike, Kaepernick and the NFL did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on Monday.
“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 Gino Fisanotti, a Nike vice president of brand for North America, according to ESPN.
Kaepernick was a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers for six years. He stirred a national controversy by taking a knee while the anthem was played before games during the National Football League’s 2016 season to draw attention to police killings of black men and other issues.
The protests during the national anthem, soon embraced by other players too, raised the ire of some NFL fans and Trump, who has said he would love to see NFL owners fire football players who disrespected the American flag.
The NFL this season has adopted a rule requiring all players to stand during the anthem, although it gave them the option of staying off the field until the ceremony was over. Even so, the protests have persisted through the preseason and the NFL has said it is in discussions with the players union on the policy.
Kaepernick and another former 49ers player, Eric Reid, have not been signed by any of the NFL’s 32 teams since their protests spread around the league. Both have filed collusion grievances against NFL owners.
On Thursday, arbitrator Stephen Burbank denied the league’s request to dismiss the case, which means he found sufficient evidence for the case to continue and perhaps go to trial.
News of Nike’s ad campaign broke just days before the first game of the NFL season on Thursday, when the controversy over pre-game protests could flare anew.
“Nike has always been and will continue to be my family’s favorite shoe,” wrote Twitter user @TheDionneMama.
But other reaction on Twitter was negative. “Time to throw away all my Nike crap,” wrote @SportDuh 17.
Kaepernick received an enthusiastic welcome from fans at the U.S. Open’s showcase match between Serena and Venus Williams on Friday night when he was shown raising his fist on the big screen.
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Jonathan Allen and Frank McGurty; Editing by Cynthia Osterman