Last week, an arbitrator ruled that Colin Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the NFL can go forward. This week, Nike unveiled a new ad campaign starring the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who rose to prominence in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against black Americans.
Per ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Nike’s Labor Day rollout of this Kaepernick ad was the final step in a long-term plan.
Earlier this year, Nike signed an eight-year extension on its deal to make the NFL’s uniforms, a contract that will make the swoosh omnipresent in the league through 2028.
While Nike’s Kaepernick ad celebrates his willingness to speak up no matter the consequences, Michael Jordan’s relationship with Nike is generally seen as a key explanation for why Jordan has rarely spoken up on social issues. (Please note that Jordan may never have said “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”)
Nike’s first “Just Do It” commercial, which debuted in 1988, featured an 80-year-old runner named Walt Stack who professed to run 17 miles every morning.
With Stack having died in 1995, the shoe giant had to explore other options. Apparently, Kaepernick was available.