Nike’s new endorsement deal with Colin Kaepernick marks an important departure from the National Football League.
Kaepernick and Nike announced on Monday that he will be the face of the company’s 30th anniversary of “Just Do It.” According to a Yahoo Sports report, the company signed a multi-year deal with Kaepernick that could include his own branded apparel.
But there’s potentially more to this than a simple endorsement. The NFL and Nike have long had a strong relationship. And in March, they signed an eight-year deal that will ensure Nike provides the uniforms and other gear between 2020 and 2028.
“Nike has been a long-time and trusted partner of NFL and we’re thrilled to extend our relationship with them,” the NFL’s chief media and business officer Brian Rolapp said at the time.
However, the NFL is currently in an arbitration fight with Kaepernick, who alleges that he’s been unable to get back on the field since he entered free agency in March 2017 because of possible collusion between owners not to hire him. He claims the alleged collusion is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL players union.
For its part, the NFL hasn’t commented on Nike’s deal with Kaepernick. And on Twitter, Nike has only retweeted a Kaepernick tweet includes a picture of him and the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
“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 told Fortune in an e-mailed statement. “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
Nike did not respond to a Fortune request for comment on the endorsement deal.
Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET to include the NFL’s statement.