Nike’s “Just Do It” motto is three decades old, and to celebrate the company has launched a new ad campaign featuring the ultra-controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In 2016, when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick famously took a knee during the national anthem, in order to protest against police killings and other manifestations of racial injustice in the U.S.
The decision helped to spark a massive debate about patriotism and free speech in the context of sports, with now-President Donald Trump being a keen commentator. Since Kaepernick left the 49ers the following year, he has been a free agent—but not willingly so, as he and his manager allege collusion among NFL owners to avoid signing him up.
Nike (nke) has long endorsed Kaepernick but, until now, it had not featured him in any campaigns since he left the NFL. Kaepernick revealed the new campaign Monday in a tweet featuring the famous Nike slogan below the words: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Serena Williams, who also features in Nike’s new campaign, praised Kaepernick for his courage, saying he and former teammate Eric Reid “really use their platform in ways that [are] really unfathomable.”
Over to Twitter, though, and although the campaign was met with many supportive replies from the public and from fellow athletes…
… it also attracted a great deal of criticism from those who see the protests as being against the police, the military or the U.S. itself.
Perhaps the most 2018 approach taken by Nike and Kaepernick’s critics has been to destroy Nike apparel in protest of the support for the noted protestor.
As many people pointed out, these actions are less than effective given that those people have already paid Nike for the items.
Some people took a more zoomed-out—or possibly swooshed-out—view of the situation by pointing out the boldness of Nike’s move. “Wish more big companies took [a] risk to make a statement,” said Shawne Merriman, the former NFL linebacker.
The NFL’s 2018 regular season is set to start Thursday without any resolution to the ongoing controversy surrounding knee-taking protests during the anthem. Team owners backed a new policy in May that would allow players to stay in the locker room during the anthem, while threatening them with discipline if they go on the field and refuse to stand. However, the policy was suspended in July.