Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first to take a knee during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, is one of the new faces of Nike’s campaign to mark the 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” slogan.
On Monday, Kaepernick posted a photo from the campaign that featured his face and the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The campaign also features Serena Williams, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Shaquem Griffin, a rookie linebacker whose left hand was amputated when he was four.
Unsurprisingly, Nike’s decision to include Kaepernick in their “Just Do It” 30th anniversary campaign sparked an immediate outcry on the right. Some people on social media have begun calling for a Nike boycott, while others have posted photos and videos of themselves destroying their Nike apparel.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since 2016, when he first began kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Other players soon joined Kaepernick and the protests continued even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and found himself without a team.
The protests have become a political and cultural flashpoint, and many – including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence – have tried to spin the act as disrespectful of the American flag and military. Last season, Trump repeatedly attacked players who protested, and at an Alabama rally he urged team owners to take action against players who knelt, saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field.”
Last May, the NFL seemed to bend to pressure from the Trump administration, announcing that teams would be fined if all of their players did not stand for the National Anthem. However, the league did not stipulate how a player would be punished for kneeling, and in July the league put their policy on hold following reports that the Miami Dolphins were considering four-game suspensions. The league and the NFL Players Association are reportedly still hashing out the specifics.
As for Kaepernick, the quarterback has continued to work as an activist for racial injustice since he found himself out of the NFL. Last October, he filed a grievance of collusion against the NFL’s owners, arguing that he was being “blackballed” from the league because of his protest. Last Thursday, an arbitrator rejected the NFL’s request to dismiss the grievance and the case is set to proceed to trial.