Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and famed anthem protester Colin Kaepernick is part of a new Nike campaign to mark the 30th anniversary of the sporting equipment giant’s iconic “Just Do It” slogan.
Kaepernick, who triggered a political firestorm after kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice, has not played in the NFL since early 2017.
The 30-year-old is suing the NFL, claiming he has been frozen out of the league by team owners because of his activism. Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, argues NFL owners were “clearly colluding” to keep the quarterback out of the leagues because they were “intimidated by President Donald Trump.
“They were clearly colluding because they were intimidated by the president. The only reason — and the owners will admit this — that they haven’t signed him is because of Trump, and they’ve colluded because of Trump,” Geragos told the Straight Aim with Amy Dash podcast in May.
The new Nike adverts, which were unveiled just days before the kick-off of the 2018 NFL season, show a portrait of Kaepernick with the slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Kaepernick posted the advert on his Twitter account followed by #JustDoIt.
According to ESPN, Nike had kept Kaepernick, who signed a sponsorship deal with the company in 2011, on its payroll throughout the controversy of recent years. “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,” Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s vice president of brand for North America.
On the same day that Nike unveiled its new advertising campaign, Kaepernick received support from an unlikely figure.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran, took to Twitter Monday to decry Kaepernick’s exclusion from the NFL’s upcoming season. “The #NFL season will start this week, unfortunately once again @Kaepernick7 is not on a NFL roster. Even though he is one of the best Quarterbacks in the league,” Ahmadinejad tweeted.
— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (@Ahmadinejad1956) September 3, 2018
Ahmadinejad served as Iran’s president from 2005 to 2013, overseeing the government crackdown on mass protests after his widely contested reelection in 2009. His administration killed dozens and arrested hundreds of political dissidents, then allegedly tortured and raped many of the imprisoned demonstrators.
The ad reveal comes just days after Kaepernick was cheered by spectators when he appeared alongside fellow player and activist Eric Reid at the U.S. Open tennis tournament to watch Serena Williams on Friday.
— Robert Littal (@BSO) September 1, 2018
Kaepernick’s protests — accompanied by fashion statements like “pig cop” socks — have drawn the ire of President Trump, who has repeatedly criticized kneelers over the past year, labeling them “sons of bitches” who should be fired.
The president in June canceled the visit of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to the White House after several players indicated they would not attend.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.