US president Donald Trump has slammed Nike’s decision to make former NFL player Colin Kaepernick the face of its ‘Just Do it’ campaign as the President’s supporters burn sports shoes and encourage boycotts.
Nike chose Kaepernick, the first NFL player to kneel in protest during the US national anthem, as one of the faces of its latest campaign.
And while Nike described the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback as “one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation”, his involvement in the ad campaign has been met with outrage from the right of American politics.
The NFL, meanwhile, said in a statement it supported the Nike campaign.
Those opposed to the use of Kaepernick image on massive billboards and on TV took took to social media, promising to destroy Nike products.
The hashtag #JustBurnIt – a play on Nike’s slogan ‘Just Do It’ – trended on Twitter alongside #BoycottNike.
First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive? pic.twitter.com/4CVQdTHUH4
— Sean Clancy (@sclancy79) September 3, 2018
In an interview with the online publication Daily Caller, Mr Trump, who has been strongly critical of the protest movement to kneel during the anthem said: “I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent.”
Mr Trump has frequently called out the NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell for their inability to curtail players kneeling during the anthem.
However, Mr Trump said making business decisions is what the nation is all about and noted to the Daily Caller: “Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent.”
The President was apparently referring to Niketown New York, which is located at Six East 57th Street in New York City.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Kaepernick, who has been unable to find an NFL team this season, has filed a grievance that team owners colluded not to hire him after he became a free agent.
But the NFL, whose teams have a long-term contract with Nike, praised the impact of Kaepernick protests.
“The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities,” Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, said in a statement.
The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign is a Madison Avenue cornerstone. It launched in 1988 with ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, and has been seen as a way to urge consumers from all background to get more involved with sports, athleticism and staying in shape.