Shares of Nike were down by as much as 3 percent on Tuesday, after the sportswear giant chose anthem-kneeling activist Colin Kaepernick as the face for the 30th anniversary of its iconic “Just Do It” slogan.
Kaepernick was the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem, an anti-American political protest that sparked a backlash against the sport and sent ratings tumbling. Kaepernick also sported socks depicting police as pigs at team practices and wore t-shirts celebrating Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro.
Kaepernick’s defenders have falsely claimed that his protests were not anti-American, but merely meant to show his opposition to racism. However, Kaepernick’s own statements show that he equates American pride with racism.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said after he kneeled at an August 2016 game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The choice of Kaepernick sparked tens of thousands of people to tweet using the hashtag #NikeBoycott on Tuesday morning. Some users posted images of themselves ripping or burning Nike shoes and clothing.
Shares bounced back a bit, trading down about 2.2 percent, after the first half hour or so of trading. Some analysts think the calls for a boycott might not hit sales too hard. Others say that while the choice of Kaepernick could win plaudits in urban areas, particularly on the West Coast, the boycott could hurt Nike in the Midwest and among high school athletes outside of coastal cities.
GlobalData Retail’s Neil Saunders told Reuters that the campaign will hurt Nike in Middle America.
“The company’s stand may go down well on its native West Coast; it will be far less welcome in many other locations,” he said.
Others have described the Kaepernick campaign as a deliberate provocation.
“Nike knew what it was doing when it tapped controversial Kaepernick. They decided to declare war on #MAGA and throw in with #Woke. Also, they knew even you guys would give them free publicity,” emailed one investment manager who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized by his firm to talk about the matter.
Nike is battling Adidas for dominance in the sports shoe market. Adidas has not taken an overt political stance equivalent to Nike’s but Kanye West, whose Yeezy brand shoes are sold by Adidas, has praised President Donald Trump.