Missouri College to Stop Wearing Nike Logo Uniforms Over Kaepernick Ad
For the last 30 years, Nike has compelled athletes of all ages and skill levels to strive for glory through its “Just Do It” slogan. Last night, in conjunction with the start of the National Football League (NFL) regular season, the corporation marked the advice’s anniversary by releasing a two-minute advertisement with narration by Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has become a different signal caller, that of someone wishing for the country to address topics such as racial discrimination and police brutality. The 30-year-old, who commenced his advocacy endeavors in 2016 by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, has played hero to many and reviled villain to others, with the College of the Ozarks expressing its dissatisfaction over the commercial by planning “to remove all athletic uniforms purchased from Nike or that contain the Nike emblem.”
— CollegeOfTheOzarks (@CofOHardWorkU) September 5, 2018
Through its president, Jerry C. Davis, the Missouri institution said that Nike's executives “are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America” by spotlighting Kaepernick, whom Nike North America brand vice president Gino Fisanotti has lauded as “one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation.” The College of the Ozarks may not quite be on the same level as, say, the University of Alabama, Duke University, the University of Kentucky, Ohio State University or other big collegiate Nike clients, but its decision to move away from the apparel provider deserves as much examination as that which would go to any announcement by a more publicly known school to back away from a contract.
“If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them,” Davis proclaims in his employer’s web-based rebuke of the campaign, whose other opponents have similarly seen it as an affront to servicemen and women, given Kaepernick’s scrutinized take on law enforcement and refusal to stand for the national anthem. “We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform.”
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
The institution president’s note about sacrifice strikes directly at the Nike advertisement’s encouragement to “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Since the College of the Ozarks holds that it aims to provide its enrollees with “an understanding of American heritage, civic responsibilities, love of country and [the] willingness to defend it,” one could posit that a campaign that involves a highly polarizing figure—who has arguably become more famous for his social activism than his football feats—would certainly meet condemnation, and the school has every right to walk away from its partnership with Nike, just as other institutions have the freedom to retain their connection to it. While the College of the Ozarks will find itself in the limelight for a bit, one could also wonder which other locations, if any, might follow.
The higher-learning site’s news also adds to the conversation on what could ultimately happen to Nike as a result of the initiative. Any internet search for an account on the matter is bound to show that those loyal to Kaepernick—who has a collusion lawsuit against the NFL over his inability to secure a roster spot—have grown even more devoted to his cause. And those who see him as nothing more than a rabble-rouser have grown more irritated, with many end-users vowing never to buy Nike goods again and others electing to destroy their purchases. News of the campaign led to an initial drop in the value of Nike’s shares, but those totals have risen in the wake of the airing, with additional sporting events to show the clip this weekend.
Business considerations always involve a look at risk versus reward, so it will be interesting to see if its choosing Kaepernick as the embodiment of its brand’s message will affect Nike. We'd like to know your take on the matter, too.