Doubling down on a boycott by some fans and criticism from President Donald Trump, Nike on Wednesday released a full-length commercial featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The TV spot, slated to air directly before the NFL season starts on Thursday, features women athletes, a disabled youngster, a reference to refugees, and people from various races. The aim of the campaign – which celebrates 30 years of Nike’s “Just Do It” mantra – is to reach a younger generation, Nike said, consumers who are likely to be more supportive of Kaepernick’s activism than the typical NFL viewer.
Kaepernick, then the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, became part of a national debate in 2016 when he started to sit out the national anthem at the start of his team’s games. He explained his demonstration was to protest “a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Several more athletes followed his example, and the Take a Knee protest swiftly became a hotly debated sticking point for the controversy-averse NFL.
While the latest commercial does not make mention of Kaepernick’s infamous stance, it is a call to excellence at the highest levels, featuring celebrity athletes such as Serena Williams and LeBron James, as well as lesser-known players such as MLS star Alphonso Davies, who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana after his parents fled civil war in Liberia.