Sports Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad airs during NFL season opener on NBC

Sports

A Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick aired during the third quarter of Thursday’s NFL season opener, a game between the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons that was televised nationally on NBC. The former 49ers quarterback has been a polarizing figure since becoming the first NFL player to stage protests of racial injustice during pregame renditions of the national anthem, and Nike’s decision to use him in a major ad campaign has drawn the attention of President Trump, among many others.

[Before NFL opener, Eagles’ Michael Bennett sits on bench near end of national anthem]

The 90-second ad showed a variety of athletes, including the Lakers’ LeBron James and tennis star Serena Williams, and it ended with the slogan, “It’s only crazy until you do it. Just do it.” Kaepernick, who provided the voice-over for the ad and appeared toward the end of it, has been out of the NFL since becoming a free agent in March 2017, and he has filed a grievance against the NFL that accuses team owners of colluding to ostracize him because of his activism and his central connection to the protests that some players have continued.

Nike, meanwhile, is the official and exclusive provider of NFL apparel, and its deal with the league is set to run until 2028. Following the revelation Monday that Kaepernick, who reportedly has been under contract with Nike since 2011, would be involved in an ad campaign, the NFL said in a statement that it “believes in dialogue, understanding and unity” and embraces “the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities.”

Trump, who has frequently criticized the protests by NFL players and the league’s handling of them, said Tuesday that Nike’s use of Kaepernick sends “a terrible message.” On Wednesday, the president noted the NFL’s drop in TV ratings in claiming on Twitter that “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts,” and he said that he would find the league’s games “hard to watch” until all players stood for the flag.

Montana crowd rained down boos when Fox host Pete Segseth mentioned the NFL. Trump said he would “win” the culture war and that he honestly “doesn’t know what the NFL is doing.”

— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) September 7, 2018

Kaepernick tweeted out a two-minute version of the Nike ad on Wednesday. In addition to James and Williams, it featured Kenyan distance runner Eliud Kipchoge and lesser-known athletes including: Isaiah Bird, a 10-year-old wrestler who was born without legs; German boxer Zeina Nassar; wheelchair basketball standout Megan Blunk; Canadian soccer phenom Alphonso Davies; Seahawks rookie Shaquem Griffin; and triathlete Charlie Jabaley.

“If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what you think you can do, good. Stay that way,” Kaepernick said in his voice-over, before appearing onscreen toward the end of the ad. “Because what nonbelievers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult; it’s a compliment.”

“He’s done a lot for the African American community, and it’s cost him a lot. It’s sad,” Williams said of Kaepernick 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.”

James, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump, has shared on social media both an image of Kaepernick from the campaign and the two-minute ad. In November, James had invoked Martin Luther King Jr. in saying of the “blackballed” ex-quarterback, “I’ve commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him.”

Nike’s use of Kaepernick has led to calls for boycotts by some customers. Others have posted to social media images and video footage reflecting their unhappiness with the company, including burning its products.

The National Association of Police Organizations also called for a boycott of Nike over its support for the former Super Bowl participant, who has emphasized his opposition to police brutality, and the National Fraternal Order of Police condemned the campaign. The National Black Police Association, on the other hand, said in a statement that it “believes that Mr. Kaepernick’s stance is in direct alignment with what law enforcement stands for — the protection of a people, their human rights, their dignity, their safety and their rights as American citizens,” and other police officers have previously rallied in his support.

Several Eagles players have staged demonstrations during the anthem over the past two seasons, and after some members of the team said they would skip the traditional champions’ visit to the White House, Trump made a point of disinviting the entire organization in June. Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has raised a fist during the anthem in the past but did not do so before Thursday’s game, said Wednesday that he wants players to protest in different ways, to “get this conversation to move away from the anthem.”

Redskins cornerback Josh Norman recently criticized Kaepernick for “ducking” the ongoing furor over the protests by largely remaining silent. Norman clarified his comments Thursday, saying he didn’t want to “tear down what he’s done,” adding of Kaepernick, “I want to praise him and what he has been doing this far and all the things he has continued to do.”

Read more from The Post:

Nike ad wedges Colin Kaepernick back into the NFL, but money muddles the message

Nike knows the future looks something like Colin Kaepernick

Nike’s Colin Kaepernick decision might be calculated. That doesn’t make it wrong.

Nike isn’t trying to be ‘woke.’ It’s trying to sell shoes.

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