The Brief: Nike released an ad campaign starring Colin Kaepernick, inspiring debate, outrage, and memes.
Nike‘s September 2018 ad campaign includes a TV commercial and physical ad which features Colin Kaepernick, the ex 49’ers quarterback known for starting a public protest against “the oppression of black people and people of color” in the United States.
An inspirational commercial narrated by Kaepernick telling viewers to follow their big, “crazy dreams,” is set to air during the TV coverage for the NFL’s first game of the season. A billboard with Kaepernick’s face and the words: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it” has been posted in cities including San Francisco.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
— SFGate (@SFGate) September 4, 2018
Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem as a peaceful protest at NFL games has been divisive, making him the subject of both praise and controversy. Critics including president Donald Trump characterize Kaepernick’s actions as unpatriotic and disrespectful towards the U.S. and its military, even though Kaepernick has specifically stated that he respects veterans and members of the military.
Notably, Kaepernick has been unemployed since late 2016, with NFL teams refusing to sign him, in spite of his credentials as a talented football player.
What was Nike thinking?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2018
— Laces Out (@LacesOutShow) September 4, 2018
Some outraged Americans have gone as far as to burn their Nike products to demonstrate their anger against the company.
The College of the Ozarks, a Christian college in Missouri has announced that it will be removing all Nike sportswear from its school’s teams because of the ad.
While conservatives have been vocal about the campaign being unamerican or disrespectful, some more liberal commentators pointed out that Nike’s value placed on social justice in this ad and others doesn’t match up with its practices of exploiting workers for cheap labor.
In spite of the backlash, the ad campaign and all the buzz it’s gathered seems to be a success for Nike, with sales rising by 27% in the first four days since its release.
Of course, with so much talk about the ad, memes have been rolling in. Many of them mimic the original Kaepernick ad. Variations swap other athletes’ and celebrities’ faces for Kaepernick’s, sometimes changing the text to make a joke. Others mock those who have decided to burn their Nikes in protest.
The real face of Nike pic.twitter.com/TwLLoROhHS
— ｍａｄｓ (@omgeemaddiee) September 5, 2018
Donald Trump Jr. (or at least his social media team) shared memes with pro-MAGA takes on the original Nike ad.