New athlete, same risk

Recent business decision from Nike differs little from their past


Photo by MCT

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) looks downfield for an open receiver in a game against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/MCT)

Story by John Morgan, sports editor

Nike is a brand that has become synonymous with athletic prowess. The swoosh is a captivating image in worldwide society that has become instantly recognizable. Most importantly, Nike is what Nike is today because in the history of their climb to economic prosperity, they have done what many profitable businesses have done.

They have taken risks.

They trusted Sonny Vaccaro when he presented the idea of making a basketball shoe and marketing an unproven shooting guard out of North Carolina by the name of Michael Jordan. They decided to pay universities to wear their products rather than dole them out for a price. They acquired other competitors to strengthen their brand and diversify their interests.

Each of these moves resulted in immense profits for Nike and pioneered the way that athletic apparel companies go about their business nowadays. For all of their commercial decisions, Phil Knight and Co. have been sure to reap some sort of benefit in the deal.

This is what makes their most recent endeavor not as unexpected as others seem to think. Nike made waves everywhere when they announced that Colin Kaepernick, currently one of the most divisive figures in sports, as the new face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. This caused a public outcry that was based more in politics than reason.

Kaepernick made headlines when he kneeled in protest during the national anthem in the 2016 NFL preseason. Since then, he has been a free agent and recently filed a collusion case against the NFL. His actions caused the league to enforce new rules surrounding the anthem.

It’s not hard to understand why a figure like this could be divisive in today’s society. Those who stand on the left and right sides of the political line in the sand have either praised the motion or called for Kaepernick’s head.

After leading the 49ers to back-to-back NFC Championship games, he has been at the center of political debate due to his act of protest. He was then not given a chance by other professional football teams and will always be defined by his actions off the field.

This would make it seem as if the decision was a cautious one for Nike to make, but they have

Nike has never been one to shy away from controversy like this.”

— John Morgan

Over the years, they have supported various polarizing figures in sports during their rough patches such as Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova and Lance Armstrong. They also sponsor athletes like LeBron James and Serena Williams, who speak up often on certain worldly topics much to the chagrin of others it seems. These might pale in comparison, though, when looking at Kaepernick’s divisiveness in this country and even abroad.

Political opinions aside, what this boils down to is the fact that Nike ended up a financial winner is this decision rather than a loser. Their company shares reached an all-time high while their online sales rose 31 percent after the announcement of the campaign, according to Fox Business. Regardless of criticism, they had received from many including President Donald Trump, universities with Nike contracts and others who stood against what Kaepernick represented, the only important aspect that matters is that Nike made money.

A company founded on risk just did what they’re best again, and it worked. Why this comes as any surprise to a public that rocks this brand up and down the streets of cities all over the nation is a conundrum.