According to a report from Rolling Stone magazine, Nike’s call center got an earful from customers upset at the company’s latest ad featuring original anthem protester Colin Kaepernick.
Nike debuted its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad featuring the former 49er who, in 2016, invented the NFL player protest during the playing of the national anthem. But fans and Nike customers alike erupted in protests of their own.
Calls into the company’s customer care center spiked in the week following the release of the ad, and,according to Rolling Stone, people were none too happy with the Kaepernick campaign.
The music magazine published what it claimed is an interview with a worker at the Nike call center, and he said that the lines were filled with people upset over Kaepernick.
The call center employee claimed to be black, was clearly supportive of his company’s work with Kaepernick, and was himself an anti-Trumper. The “worker’s” name was left out of the magazine’s story.
The employee said that call center operators had to put up with a lot of angry callers. In one case, the man said that a black call center employee was told by a caller that he didn’t care if a few cops “kill some n**ers every once in a while.” The worker also claimed that the black employee’s son had been harassed by police and the call hurt her feelings.
The man went on to detail some of the calls he took from enraged customers.
In one instance, a “white police officer” purportedly called into the Nike customer hotline and lambasted the NFL anthem protests. The worker told the magazine that the officer said, “I think [Kaepernick is] un-American, rude, disrespectful and I don’t understand why Nike would pick someone who hates America.” The police officer added that he goes to work every day to protect people, and doesn’t know if he is going to come home at night.
The Nike employee also claimed that many people said they were about to burn, destroy, or give away all the Nike merchandise they had in their possession. One woman said she would donate all her Nike gear to charity, and that she would never “give another cent” to Nike. She also added that she would divest of her Nike stock.
In other cases, Nike customers accused the company of “hating the troops” and turning against the U.S. military with its support of Kaepernick.
The employee also noted that one call center operator hung up on a guy who eventually “dropped the n-word” during the call.
Kaepernick, of course, came in for some heavy name calling according to the Rolling Stone piece. He was variously called a traitor, a terrorist, a communist, un-American, a cop hater, and many other names.
In fact, the Nike employee told the magazine that he engaged one customer who said the employee didn’t sound black on the phone. “Sir, I understand what Kaepernick is saying because I have faced the prejudice that he has faced,” the employee claims he told the customer. “He speaks for people who are being silenced. It’s not about disrespecting the military or the police, it’s just about acknowledging that there is an issue and wanting to band together to fix it.”
But the employee also said one older white woman called to praise Nike for its Kaepernick ad.
“Well, let me tell you something son, on all my years on this Earth, I’ve never seen something more proud to be taking up space on this Earth,” the woman reportedly said. “I don’t know much about the Nike, but I’m going to begin buying the products.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.