President Trump, in an interview with the Daily Caller this week, said that Nike was sending a “terrible message” by making Colin Kaepernick the centerpiece of their new “Just Do It” advertising campaign. But in a surprisingly philosophical remark, the president said that whether or not he agreed with the company’s decision to put Anthem Kneeler #1 at the forefront of their marketing strategy, Nike had every right to express that point of view.
“I think it’s a terrible message,” Trump said in the interview. “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 rolled the ad out on social media on Monday: A closeup shot of Kaepernick’s face, over which was written: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The ad was an instant viral sensation; Twitter and the rest of the political world immediately exploded with commentary on both sides of the NFL national anthem issue. Some swore they would never buy Nike products again while others said they were proud of the sportswear company for getting “woke.” Others took it to the next level, filming videos of themselves destroying Nike merchandise in an all-out demonstration of disgust with the new ad.
Many observers questioned the wisdom of a mass-market company like Nike taking such a strong political stance with their advertisement, but the risk may not be as great as it seems at first blush. Nike’s target audience, flatly, is teenage boys. That’s the sort of demographic that goes wild for counter-culture “bad boys” like Kaepernick and is unlikely to be swayed by the arguments from the White House or the conservative blogosphere. Nike didn’t make this move without careful consideration, of that you can be sure. If they thought it was going to sink the brand, there’s not a chance in hell they would have gone in this direction.
In the interview, President Trump said that while he believed Nike was making a mistake, it was their mistake to make.
“As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it – but in another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do, but I personally am on a different side of it.”