Pin It

Nike has angered racists by casting Colin Kaepernick in a bold campaign

The former NFL player refused to stand during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and state violence

To coincide with the 30th anniversary of its first Just Do It campaign, Nike has released a new series that celebrates the greats of the sporting world. Serena Williams was first up, with her image captioned: ‘You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers’ – as part of a statement on her being banned from wearing a catsuit at the French Open. 

Now, former NFL player Colin Kaepernick has been revealed as another face of the campaign. He appears shot in black-and-white, with the statement: ‘Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.’

Kaepernick caused controversy while playing for the San Francisco 49ers by refusing to stand during the national anthem, in protest of violence perpetuated against people of colour in the US. In 2016, he explained to NFL Media: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The backlash to Kaepernick’s peaceful protest was huge. Trump called Kaepernick (and others who later joined him) “sons of bitches”. (...Right.) The controversy led to Kaepernick leaving the team, and he hasn’t joined another one since. 

Following the release of the campaign on September 3, some Twitter users started the hashtags #BoycottNike and #JustBurnIt, posting videos of them burning their Nike shoes – because obviously, burning footwear you’ve already paid for is a great way to protest! Others cut the swooshes out of their socks and clothing. Maybe a better idea might be to #JustDonateIt? 

After the campaign was released, Williams praised her co-star saying: “I think every athlete, every human, and definitely every African American should be completely grateful and honoured at how Colin and Eric (Reid) are doing so much more for the greater good. They really use their platform in ways that are unfathomable.”

Nike has not commented on the backlash to the campaign at this time.