Nike is taking a knee.
The Beaverton-based sportswear company has bought air time during the National Football League season opener Thursday night to debut its new ad featuring quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose protests of racial injustice have kept him out of the league.
Kaepernick debuted the video on social media this morning.
The two Oregon business titans have plunged Nike into a national political firestorm—and gotten a lot of sneakers set on fire. President Donald Trump, who has made Kaepernick into a scapegoat at his creepy rallies, panned the ad yesterday.
As AdWeek noted today, the political edge is not new. Nike and W+K have delighted in provoking the American public with socially progressive ad campaigns since Dan Wieden came up with the "Just Do It" campaign. (It was a reworking of the last words of serial killer Gary Gilmore at his execution.)
And in Buzzfeed, Katherine Miller writes that the Kaepernick ad feels like an obituary for the NFL, in part because Nike, like a Vegas casino, always wins.
This is why the ad is so striking, and eclipses all the normal considerations: We intuitively know that Nike never, ever, ever backs down. They are so corporate and so vast that every decision they make feels final. So, when you consider that understanding of Nike, isn’t this the firmest sign of NFL entering into decay and decline there’s ever been? When their own uniform maker has launched a marquee campaign with the player suing the NFL?
Back home in Oregon, of course, Nike faces its own troubles.