NEW YORK – Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sparked controversy by kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, will be the face of a Nike Inc. ad campaign for the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” motto, according to ESPN on Monday.
Kaepernick was a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers for six years. He stirred national debate by taking a knee while the anthem was played before games during the National Football League’s 2016 season to draw attention to police killings of black men and other issues.
Kaepernick on Monday tweeted a black-and-white photo of himself featuring the Nike logo and “just do it” slogan as well as a quote, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The protests during the national anthem, soon embraced by other players too, raised the ire of some NFL fans and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump said the players disrespected the American flag and the military, and he has said he would love to see NFL owners fire football players who disrespected the American flag
Kaepernick and another former 49ers player, Eric Reid, have not been signed by any of the NFL’s 32 teams since their protests spread around the league. Both have filed collusion grievances against NFL owners.
On Thursday, arbitrator Stephen Burbank denied the league’s request to dismiss the case, which means he found sufficient evidence for the case to continue and perhaps go to trial.
News of Nike’s ad campaign broke just days before the first game of the NFL season on Thursday, when the controversy over pre-game protests could flare anew.
“Nike has always been and will continue to be my family’s favorite shoe,” wrote Twitter user @TheDionneMama.
But other reaction on Twitter was negative. “Time to throw away all my Nike crap,” wrote @SportDuh 17.
Kaepernick received an enthusiastic welcome from fans at the U.S. Open’s showcase match between Serena and Venus Williams on Friday night when he was shown raising his fist on the big screen.
Efforts to reach Nike and Kaepernick were not immediately successful.