Athletes side with Kaepernick as Nike ‘Just Do It’ ad goes viral

NFL quarterback who sparked debate over race-based police brutality becomes new face of a viral advertising campaign.

Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned this NFL season, leading some to accuse the NFL of blacklisting him [Reuters]

Some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment and politics have taken to Twitter to show their support for civil rights activist and Black Lives Matter supporter Colin Kaepernick after the former American football player became the new face of Nike’s ‘Just Do it’ ad campaign.

Kaepernick, 30, who is currently without a team, sparked a wave of protests across the National Football League and other athletic events in 2016 after he started kneeling during the American national anthem to protest against police brutality against African Americans.

“Believe in something,” Nike’s new tagline read in a tweet posted by Kaepernick.

“Even if it means sacrificing everything”.

The tweet immediately went viral, garnering millions of interactions and the #Nike hashtag became a worldwide trending topic.

Kaepernick, who has not played football since 2017 after he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers, has repeatedly been attacked by US President Donald Trump over his public stand, with Trump calling on NFL team owners to fire players like him.

Brushing aside the issue of racism, Trump accused them of showing “total disrespect of our heritage”.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. Out! He’s fired”.

Kenney Stills, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins tweeted: “#IMWITHKAP”.

Kelvin Beachum, who plays for the New York Jets tweeted a raised fist emoji, which is commonly used to show support for African American and minority rights issues.

Russell Okung, an offensive tackler for the Los Angeles Chargers, wrote on Twitter: “Be like NIKE, don’t be like Papa Johns.”

Papa John’s courted controversy last year after weighing in on the national anthem protest.

The Daily Stormer, a white-supremacist website, published an article asking whether Papa John’s was the “official pizza of the alt-right”.

Samuel L Jackson, who has starred in several hit films such as Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and the Avengers franchise tweeted: “Oh s**t @Nike done stepped in it now!!! Sanctions tbd!!!”

Jamie Lee Curtis, the lead actress in the Halloween film series, said: “The swish got it right! Well done”.

Tariq Nasheed, an African American author and filmmaker, said Nike would be remembered for being “on the right side of history”.

Bizarrely, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who’s been tweeting with greater frequency as of late, called Kaepernick “one of the best quarterbacks in the league”.

“The #NFL season will start this week, unfortunately once again @Kaepernick7 is not on a NFL roster,” he wrote. “Even though he is one of the best Quarterbacks in the league”.^tfw

US Senator Ted Cruz used the tweet for political point-scoring and quote-tweeted the former anti-American president, saying: “When a radical anti-Semite, anti-American Iranian dictator emphatically agrees with you, maybe that’s a sign that Beto, the NFL, and Nike are all on the wrong side of the American people”.

However, former CIA director John Brennan tweeted, “Colin Kaepernick drew our collective attention to the problem of continued racial injustice in America. He did so not to disrespect our flag but to give meaning to the words of the preamble of our Constitution – ‘in order to form a more perfect union.’ Well done, Colin, well done.”

Meanwhile, some people took to Twitter to protest Nike’s decision to pick Kaepernick for the face of their 30th anniversary campaign.

Twitter user @sclancy79, who describes himself as a “lover of liberty” shared a video showing a pair of Nike shoes on fire.

“First the @NFL forces me to choose between my favorite sport and my country. I chose country. Then @Nike forces me to choose between my favorite shoes and my country. Since when did the American Flag and the National Anthem become offensive?” he posted.

American country singer John Rich posted a photo of a pair of cut-up socks after one of his sound technicians, reportedly a marine, cut out the Nike logo in anger.

This prompted Zach Braff, best known for his role on the hit TV show ‘Scrubs’, to sarcastically tweet: “Nike ran the numbers. They’ll be ok. But please, burn your socks”.

And YouTuber and social media influencer Lily Singh questioned what the protesters were really upset about.

“People really out here destroying their @Nike products over the Kaepernick ad? What are you mad about? Peaceful protest? Equality? Black lives mattering? Fair policing? Youth being protected? Stop making this about something it’s not. Evaluate your minds,” she tweeted.

The NFL league and players union still haven’t resolved whether players will be punished this season if they choose to kneel or demonstrate during the national anthem.

Owners approved a policy requiring players to stand if they are on the sideline during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” allowing them to stay off the field if they wish.

But the league and union put that on hold after the Miami Dolphins faced backlash for classifying the protests as conduct potentially detrimental to the team – putting players at risk of fines or suspensions.

Source: Al Jazeera