What in God’s name were the Nike folks thinking when they decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their “Just Do It” campaign with arguably the most controversial if not the most unpopular sports figure in America — Colin Kaepernick? The sound you hear is the iconic curved “swish” logo flying off the feet of legions of now-former customers. The backlash was so predictable that no explanation can salvage the intellectual and professional competence of those in the Nike boardroom who signed off on that bit of corporate insanity.
In the ad, the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” is superimposed over Kaepernick’s face. The problem for Nike is that this ad is not a Kaepernick endorsement of Nike – as if that would not have been bad enough — but Nike’s endorsement of Kaepernick’s highly controversial protest that involves a show of disrespect for the National Anthem.
Social media is awash with messages from people pledging to never purchase another pair of Nike shoes. There are countless videos of people dumping Nike footgear in the garbage, destroying them with axes and saws and even setting them afire. The hashtag #NikeBoycott is now trending.
There has been an immediate drop in sales and, worst of all, Nike stock took an immediate 3.2 percent dive, which translate to a loss of an incredible $4.2 billion in market cap. That is a lot of shoelaces – and the freefall may not be over yet.
Some stock analysts see the Nike move as a means of focusing on the under-35 millennial market. The no-fee Robinhood brokerage house that services the younger market is bullish on Nike. Robinhood reports that their clientele is purchasing more Nike than they are selling. It is too early to tell, however, if that is based on past momentum from Nike’s 50 percent rise since the first of the year or resistance to the controversy. The Kaepernick effect may not have hit yet. Despite that anecdotal example, the bottom line fact is that Nike lost a ton of value thanks to the Kaepernick decision.
The Nike controversy is bad news for the NFL. Just as the public wrath that had been directed at the NFL was drifting to the back burner of news coverage, Nike has succeeded in bringing it all back to the “breaking news” level. It is no small irony that Nike should promote Kaepernick’s ongoing feud with the NFL while being one of the Leagues major sponsors and business partners.
In 2010, the NFL signed Nike as one of the brands it would carry in its sports retail outlets. Today that may offer more sites for protest than sales. An online petition site had previously gathered thousands of signatures demanding that Nike, among other sponsors, withdraw their advertising support of the NFL in the wake of the kneeling protest. Instead, Nike allowed itself to get sacked by coming out in favor of the protest – a decision that puts them at odds with the NFL and millions of American consumers.
It has often been said figuratively that people protest with their feet. This time they are doing it literally.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at email@example.com.