Nike shares fall as customers burn their trainers over Kaepernick ad

Sportswear brand takes a financial hit as calls for a boycott gain traction

Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick and Eli Harold kneel for the national anthem
(Image credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Nike’s decision to feature NFL star Colin Kaepernick as the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign has proven costly, with shares dipping by 3% amid a furious backlash including calls for a mass boycott and even led to people burning their trainers.

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was the first player to kneel during the National Anthem as a protest against racism and to draw attention to police killings of African-Americans, becoming a figure of both intense admiration and hate in the US.

In a sign of just how divisive he is, the sportswear giant lost more than 3% of its stock market value after Kaepernick posted a black-and-white close-up of himself on Instagram featuring the Nike logo and “Just do it” slogan, along with the quote: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

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Reuters reports that one day after the image post appeared, 30,000 people were tweeting with the hashtag #NikeBoycott, making it among the top ten trending topics on Twitter. Some posted images of themselves burning and ripping their Nike shoes and clothes.

However, a large number of people, including celebrities - among them, the former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - took to social media to support Nike’s decision to take a stand on social issues.

While there have also been reports that sales of Nike goods have enjoyed a short-term spike, Reuters says that retail industry analysts “were divided on whether the heat around the campaign would be a commercial positive for Nike or ultimately alienate and lose customers”, with

“The company’s stand may go down well on its native West Coast” says GlobalData Retail’s Neil Saunders, but “it will be far less welcome in many other locations,” and most likely harm Nike in middle America.

“Nike's public support of Kaepernick also risks the wrath of US President Donald Trump” says CNN.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly seized on the issue, arguing players who kneel disrespected the American flag and the military.

News of Nike’s ad campaign broke just days before the first game of the NFL season on Thursday, “when the controversy over pre-game protests could flare anew” says The Guardian.

Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, the result, his supporters claims, of a coordinated campaign to ostracise him by franchise owners.

Both he and another former 49ers player, Eric Reid, have filed collusion grievances against NFL owners. On Thursday, arbitrator Stephen Burbank denied the league’s request to dismiss the case, “which means he found sufficient evidence for the case to continue and perhaps go to trial” says The Guardian.

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