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Colin Kaepernick Is Picked For Nike's Anniversary 'Just Do It' Campaign


The former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick can't get a job playing football, but Nike is hiring. In new ads for Nike's 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign, a tag line on top of Kaepernick's face reads, believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. In 2016, Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem as a protest against social injustice. And he became the face of a player protest movement against racism. Justin Tinsley is a sports and culture reporter for ESPN's The Undefeated. Good morning.

JUSTIN TINSLEY: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Thanks for joining us. What message is Nike sending by choosing Kaepernick for this campaign?

TINSLEY: It's a very multifaceted message. Let's get the first thing out of the way. Is this a multibillion-dollar company profiting off social justice? Of course it is. There's no other way around that. The truth is the truth. But it does bring to light a very, very important conversation that the NFL is going to have to deal with now. Nike is the official team apparel designer for the entire NFL, and it's going to be so for the next 10 years. So now they have to hurry up and get this collusion case, you know, under wraps because now Nike is supporting a guy that is actively suing the NFL for blocking him from working. So it's a lot of things that could work in their favor.

And I don't think Nike's going to take too much of a financial hit. You know, a lot of people love Nike. You might see people burning their shoes on social media, but it's nothing that you need to be concerned with from a widespread angle. And it also helps build trust between Nike and the communities that buy their product. And this is also how, you know, big time corporations should use their influence.

INSKEEP: Well, that's interesting that you mentioned that when you talk about people who buy their product. If I think about one of those Venn diagrams where they have the circles that sort of overlap, I mean, there's people who watch the NFL, some of whom are very mad about the kneeling in protest, and you have people who buy Nike products. Those circles don't totally intersect. There's lots...


INSKEEP: ...Of people probably who are not NFL fans, who are, nevertheless, spending money on Nike.

TINSLEY: Oh, absolutely. Like, they're not going to take a drastic hit from the bottom line. And at the end of the day, Nike - again, this is an internationally known, multibillion-dollar company. They've done the math. They've done the bottom line probably hundreds of times over. And they know the benefit that can come from this.

And at the end of the day, you want to be on the right side of history as well because when we look back on this era of sports activism, Nike is going to have, you know, probably the three most recognizable names in that arena, one being, obviously, Colin Kaepernick, who has been signed to Nike since 2011. This wasn't just something that Nike just signed him two months ago trying to, you know, jump on that bandwagon. But it's Colin Kaepernick, it's Serena Williams and, of course, LeBron James. And that goes a long way with the legacy of a company.

INSKEEP: Where does his case against the NFL stand?

TINSLEY: Well, they're going to arbitration, which is, you know, not necessarily the most opportune thing for the NFL because that means this issue is, again, going to be a story line in - over the course of the season. So now if this comes out as to where the NFL is found out to be actively colluding to keep Colin Kaepernick out of the league, we're looking at, potentially, the biggest sports-related legal case since Curt Flood in baseball, which basically introduced free agency.

INSKEEP: Wow. Justin Tinsley, thanks very much.

TINSLEY: Thank you. Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: He's with The Undefeated. And he joined us via Skype. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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