Amidst controversy, former NFL player Colin Kaepernick is face of new Nike ad

World Today

FILE PHOTO – San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick pumps his fist as he acknowledges the cheers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on December 24, 2016. REUTERS/Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports/File Photo MANDATORY CREDIT

Global athletic wear giant Nike has introduced a controversial a new ad campaign featuring former National Football League (NFL) Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who ignited passions — and political divisions — in 2016 when he began kneeling in protest during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before NFL games.

From CGTN’s Jim Spellman reports.

Nike is the official supplier of uniforms for the NFL. Nike is marking the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan. Kaepernick appears in the ad with the quote “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad is part of a deal that will reportedly include new Kaepernick apparel and shoes made by Nike.

Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick appears as a face of Nike Inc advertisement marking the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan in this image released by Nike in Beaverton, Oregon, U.S., September 4, 2018. Courtesy Nike/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT.

Kaepernick says his protest was designed to highlight racism and injustice in the U.S.–including a series of shootings of mostly unarmed African American men by police officers.

“People are really feeling their humanity. And feeling like this might not be something I deal with in my daily life but it’s not right that other people are going through this and that’s what it comes down to,” Kaepernick said in 2016.

Other players soon joined in, and the protests spread. Some portrayed the activism as disrespectful to the flag and the U.S. military. President Donald Trump has taken a hard line against the protests -embracing it as a divisive “culture-war” issue and pushing the NFL to ban “taking a knee.”

Earlier this year, the league introduced new rules prohibiting kneeling during the anthem. The rules would allow players to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem. But backlash from some players and team owners led the NFL to back away from that position. The league is negotiating with the players union to come up with new rules.

Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick was immediately met with support and derision online. Famous athletes including Tennis legend and Nike endorser Serena Williams backed Kaepernick in a tweet.

There has also been furious backlash, with some people burning their Nikes and calling for a boycott–with #BoycottNike trending on Twitter–as others are removing the trademark swoosh from their clothes.

The NFL season begins Thursday when the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles take on the Atlanta Falcons.