Colin Kaepernick and Nike unveiled a new ad featuring the quarterback on Monday, part of the company’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign.
The image, which Kaepernick tweeted out, shows a black-and-white closeup of the quarterback’s face and the words, “Believe in something. Even it if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.”
According to ESPN, Nike has kept paying Kaepernick – who signed with the brand in 2011 – despite not using him in ads over the past two years. But it had always planned to bring him back at the right time.
“We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward,” Nike V.P. of brand in North America Gino Fisanotti told ESPN.
Kaepernick, who began kneeling in protest of racial injustice during the national anthem in August, 2016, is entering a second NFL season without being on a roster and has an active collusion grievance against the NFL. That case cleared a hurdle last week, as the league’s request to dismiss the grievance was rejected. A trial hearing that requires testimony from NFL owners could happen at some point in the future.
Nike’s campaign also includes ads featuring Serena Williams, Odell Beckham Jr. and Seattle Seahawks rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who has made an inspirational run to the league despite missing one hand due to complications from amniotic band syndrome as a child.
“We wanted to energize its meaning and introduce ‘Just Do It’ to a new generation of athletes,” Fisanotti told ESPN.
The protests during the national anthem, soon embraced by other players too, raised the ire of some NFL fans and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump said the players disrespected the American flag and the military, and he has said he would love to see NFL owners fire football players who disrespected the American flag
Kaepernick and another former 49ers player, Eric Reid, have not been signed by any of the NFL’s 32 teams since their protests spread around the league. Both have filed collusion grievances against NFL owners.
News of Nike’s ad campaign broke just days before the first game of the NFL season on Thursday, when the controversy over pregame protests could flare anew.
“Nike has always been and will continue to be my family’s favorite shoe,” wrote Twitter user @TheDionneMama.
But other reaction on Twitter was negative. “Time to throw away all my Nike crap,” wrote @SportDuh 17.
Kaepernick received an enthusiastic welcome from fans at the U.S. Open’s showcase match between Serena and Venus Williams on Friday night when he was shown raising his fist on the big screen.