Nike has taken its own advice to "Just Do It"—with the "It" being "Get involved in the NFL national anthem controversy." The company, days before the start of the new football season, has signed up former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of the 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" campaign, CNN reports. Kaepernick, who has been unable to get a new NFL contract since taking a knee for the anthem in the 2016 season to protest racial injustice, tweeted a photo from the campaign with the caption: "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." A roundup of coverage:
- "Top bracket." Kaepernick's existing deal with Nike had been about to expire when it was renegotiated for the new campaign; a source tells the AP that Kaepernick's compensation will be similar to that of the top bracket of NFL players on Nike's books—and the deal also includes a Kaepernick apparel line and donations to his charity, Know Your Rights.
- The backlash begins. Not every Nike wearer was thrilled about the move, with some so outraged that they filmed themselves destroying their Nike gear, Metro reports. Twitter user Sean Clancy posted a video of himself incinerating his Nike shoes, complaining that the company had forced him "to choose between my favorite shoes and my country." The hashtags #BoycottNike and #JustBurnIt started trending Monday.
- Cutting swooshes. Country singer John Rich tweeted a picture of his soundman, a former Marine who had "just cut the Nike swoosh off his socks." "Get ready to multiply that by the millions," Rich warned.
- Worth it? Nike, which has been battling Adidas to sign top players, is gambling that signing Kaepernick will be worth a backlash that is expected to include the president, Bloomberg reports. "The long-term relationship and a contract that benefits both parties over the next 10 years will likely outweigh any current controversy," says Bloomberg analyst Chen Grazutis.
- Athletes side with Kaepernick. Numerous fellow athletes and other celebrity spoke out in support of Kaepernick on Monday, reports Al Jazeera. #IMWITHKAP," tweeted Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenney Stills.
- Ahmadinejad, Cruz get involved. In what WFAA describes as a "new height of bizarreness" in the controversy, former Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tweeted Monday that it was a shame Kaepernick, "one of the best Quarterbacks in the league," didn't have a playing contract. Sen. Ted Cruz then tweeted that the agreement of Ahmadinejad suggested that the NFL, Nike, and Beto O'Rourke, his Democratic challenger, "are all on the wrong side of the American people."
- Tillman, too. Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004, was cited by conservative commentators including Fox's Stephen Miller as somebody who would have been a better face for the campaign, WBIR reports. Critics said Tillman would have supported players' right to protest, or suggested he be left out of the debate instead of "weaponized."
(At the US Open on Friday, Serena Williams said everybody "should be completely grateful and honored"
for the protests started by Kaepernick and fellow former 49er Eric Reid.)