In the week leading up to the start of the NFL season, a controversial Nike ad featuring former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has reignited the debate surrounding athletes kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. The ad shows a close-up of Kaepernick’s face along with the caption “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” referring to Kaepernick risking his career as a professional footballer to stand up (or kneel) for his ideals.
While many applauded Nike for their support of Kaepernick, others have lambasted the company on Twitter, many vowing to boycott its products going forward. The online reaction to the Kaepernick ad reflects the overall sentiment in the country with respect to athletes kneeling in protest of racial inequality. As a recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal shows, support for Kaepernick and his fellow protesters falls strictly along party lines. While 72 percent of Democrats think it’s appropriate to kneel during the national anthem, 88 percent of Republicans condemn the protests. Of all voters, 43 percent think taking a knee is ok, 54 percent are firmly against it.
President Trump, who has repeatedly called for harsh penalties against the protesters in the past, criticized Nike for working with Kaepernick. “I think it’s a terrible message,” Trump told conservative news site The Daily Caller, not without conceding that “it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do”. Nike’s share price dropped more than 3 percent on Tuesday as the controversy unfolded.