Nike Colin Kaepernick Ad Is Fashion Business as Usual

Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels  - October 23, 2016 -Getty- H 2018
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Nike is wading into the political waters many brands have already trod during these divisive times

The Internet is ablaze over the news that Nike has named activist Colin Kaepernick the face of its 30th anniversary Just Do It campaign.

In the ad, the former NFL quarterback is looking at the camera, and printed over the image is: "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. #JustDoIt."

Nike has been trending on social media all morning (all press is good press?) with users split on their opinions of the athletic giant supporting Kaepernick, who has been on Nike's roster since 2011, and made national headlines in 2016 when he began kneeling during pregame national anthems to protest African-American inequality.

Many, including LeBron James and Patton Oswalt, praised the Nike ad on their social media channels. But others have been labeling it anti-American and calling for a boycott of the brand, with the #BoycottNike hashtag gaining steam on social media throughout the morning.

What Nike has done is nothing new. It is wading into the political waters many brands have already trod in during these divisive times, from Nordstrom dropping first daughter Ivanka Trump's fashion label (which recently shuttered altogether), to labels like Dior, Prabal Gurung, Rachel Comey and Lingua Franca taking a stand for the MeToo movement with feminist T-shirts and donations.

Some social media users were so outraged over Nike's latest campaign, they posted videos and photos showing burning Nike sneakers, and shorts and athletic socks with the Nike logo snipped off, the irony perhaps lost on them that they were exercising their American right to protest a protester.

Nike stock also took a small hit this morning, down 2 percent, with GlobalData Retail's analyst Neil Saunders telling Reuters the campaign will harm Nike in middle America, where it is battling Adidas, Under Armour and others for dominance in the sneakers market. "The company's stand may go down well on the native West Coast; it will be far less welcome in many other locations," he said.

But don't cry for Nike. The multibillion-dollar brand has no doubt calculated the risk of taking a stand on taking a knee, as well as analyzing the growing consumer trend of shoppers voting with their dollars and looking for brands that share their values and point of view. It was also reported today that Nike has been paying Kaepernick all along, since he stopped playing, and through his recent filing of a lawsuit against the NFL League alleging team owners colluded not to hire him.

The support has always been there, even if it was quieter.

The new campaign came on the eve of Nike's sponsoring Harlem's Fashion Row show and awards dinner Tuesday night, an event kicking off New York Fashion Week that will spotlight LeBron James and promote inclusiveness of more minorities in the fashion industry, suggesting the brand could be stepping into more social activism in the future.

Now we watch to see if President Trump reacts to Nike like he reacted to Kaepernick and the NFL league, which could turn the brand into true protest wear.