The day after Nike unveiled an advertising campaign centered on Colin Kaepernick, President Donald Trump took aim at the company and at the NFL in a tweet, continuing criticism he began Tuesday.
"Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts," Trump wrote Wednesday morning. "I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!"
Trump was reacting to the decision by the apparel company to use Kaepernick as one of the faces of its 30th anniversary "Just do it" campaign. "Believe in something," the ad states, "even if it means sacrificing everything." Nike is also under contract until 2028 to supply uniforms to NFL teams.
In an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller on Tuesday, Trump said of Nike: "I think it's a terrible message that they're sending, and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there's a reason for them doing it, but I think as far as sending a message, I think it's a terrible message and a message that shouldn't be sent. There's no reason for it."
Nike's stock took an initial dip after the announcement (so did those of Adidas and Puma), but the company is wagering on long-term success with younger customers. Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, but he has had the top-selling jersey several times since his demonstration was first noticed that year, and since other players took up the cause. The quarterback has also drawn the support of star athletes from outside football since he began taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality in the summer of 2016. Trump helped draw attention to those protests, calling for owners to fire "any son of a bitch" who didn't stand for the anthem and incorrectly saying that the message was intended for the troops. Kaepernick, who is suing the NFL because he believes owners have conspired to keep him unsigned, had been under contract with Nike since 2011 but was not actively used until rival companies showed interest in him.
As of mid-morning Wednesday, Nike stock was up 0.6 percent after a 3.2 percent dip Tuesday.
The timing of the Kaepernick spot, which came three days before the NFL season opener, may have been a surprise, but its sentiment was not, given that LeBron James and Serena Williams, two of the company's biggest stars, have been outspoken about social injustice and police brutality. "He's done a lot for the African-American community, and it's cost him a lot. It's sad," Williams said of Kaepernick after reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Open on Tuesday. "Having a huge company back him . . . could be a controversial reason for this company, but they're not afraid. I feel like that was a really powerful statement to a lot of other companies."
Williams was told that director Spike Lee had compared her to Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan. "I really have no words," she said. "Mainly Ali, because he did so much for the sport, he did so much for the world, for everyone. That's what I want to do and want to be remembered for. It's not what I want to do on court, but how I can inspire people off the court. That's my dream."
The Nike ad prompted the NFL to comment positively on a player with whom it is in litigation.
"The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities," Jocelyn Moore, the NFL's executive vice president of communications and public affairs, said in a Tuesday statement. "The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action."
Others agreed with Trump, and social media users documented themselves destroying Nike apparel and shoes in protest. On "Fox & Friends," Tucker Carlson warned that society would "fall apart" because Nike is supporting Kaepernick. He called Kaepernick "a hapless kid" and said that the "sinister" company was "profiting from him and his attacks on the United States."
Meanwhile, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are attempting to work out a new national anthem policy, with the season-opening game set for Thursday night. As for TV ratings, we'll soon see whether the president is correct. Ratings were down 9.7 percent overall in 2017, after dropping 8 percent in 2016. The average game drew an audience of 14.9 million viewers, down from the 16.5 million who had tuned in to watch in 2016. "Sunday Night Football" remained the No. 1 show for the seventh straight year with an average of 18.2 million viewers, down from 2016's 20.3 million.