Colin Kaepernick and Nike – Did Nike Just Do It or Just Blew It

Colin Kaepernick

Nike almost broke Twitter when it announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do it” Campaign. It has been a polarizing debate that has lingered on for days. Everyone has their opinion about the health and future of the NFL, Kaepernick, and Nike. That debate will continue as the Nike ads will start running Thursday during the NFL’s Falcons-Eagles Kickoff game. I am here to provide facts and insight on the situation.

Social responsibility, protests, and action are the American way. This country was founded on protest. However, evidence shows that protests are largely ineffective unless they disrupt the everyday lives of people. So, a Twitter protest is just a social media protest that will affect people’s buying habits for days, not months or years. In the last year, people have tried to boycott Chick-fil-a, In-N-Out, Starbucks, and the NFL. All have gone on to make more money.

Nike Just Blew It

Is having Kaepernick on the face of the campaign “bad for business”? Did Nike really alienate half its customer base? Twitter business prognosticators and an angry mob would have you believe that’s true.

The facts are that half of Nike’s nearly $36 billion of revenue in 2017 comes from overseas. And 2/3 of all Nike customers are 35 or under. So while they did piss off a specific demographic, in all likelihood they aren’t Nike’s core customers anyway. NIKE absolutely dominates the sports footwear market. And has recovered the 5.5% of its market share of US footwear it lost to Adidas in 2017.

Nike spends millions on research every year. So, choosing Kaepernick to be the face of the campaign was a very calculated decision. The company was built on rebellion and bucking the system, and Kaepernick falls right in line with that. Michael Jordan and Steve Prefontaine are Nike’s cornerstone athletes. Both bucked the system. Pre was an eccentric runner who bucked the norms. Jordan’s shoes were banned by the NFL, but he continued to wear them. Nike rebelled and took a chance on a black athlete as their pitchman in the 80s. Most companies believed it to be a risky business. We see how that turned out.

Nike’s Stock is Getting Killed

Many people believed that Nike’s stock would drop significantly and it would hurt the business. They thought that “protesters” would abandon a well-performing stock to prove a point. Well, that has shown to false so far. Nike’s stock closed at $82.18 per share on Friday, Aug. 31st.  Nike made the announcement on Labor Day when the markets were not open. By the close of Tuesday Nike’s stock was down $3 to $79.01. On Thursday, September 6th (NKE) closed at $80.40 per share. So yes, Nike’s stock is down $1.78 since the Kaepernick campaign announcement, but it appeared to be normal market fluctuation. On September 11th, the stock price reached as high as $83.57. which is the highest it has ever been. Here is Nike’s last year on the market:

Colin Kaepernick and Nike

NFL will drop Nike

The Twitter mob would have you believe that the NFL may end their relationship with Nike.

Nike is bigger and badder than the NFL. There is ZERO chance the NFL takes legal steps to remove Nike as their official apparel provider. Nike and the NFL are in the midst of an apparel contract that was just extended to 2028. It would likely cost the NFL billions in damages if they breached the contract. The thought that the NFL was blindsided by the Colin Kaepernick signing is doubtful. The league may not have had much advance notice about it, but they have known for much longer than we know. The evidence lies in the NFL’s response to Nike’s campaign, and in the league suspending any consequences to players kneeling.

The NFL responded by saying:

“The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity,” executive vice president of communications and public affairs Jocelyn Moore said in the league’s statement. “We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”

There will be some angry owners, but they will get over it. The smartest thing the NFL can do is take a page out of the NBA’s playbook. Stay out of litigation and public discord with your players. Let your players be individuals free to say and do as they please. Fans want their players on the field, not in the courtroom fighting the league.

The owners also have realized that despite what the POTUS or some of the media tell you NFL revenues and total viewership is up despite falling ratings. Nearly all television network ratings have dropped at a much higher rate than NFL game ratings. Antiquated Nielsen ratings are the biggest factor in the decrease in ratings while total viewership has increased. Those ratings do not account for “cord cutters” and people who watch games through streaming services like Amazon, Hulu TV, YouTube TV, Sling, Roku, etc.

Colleges will drop Nike

There is a faction of people who believe that universities like Alabama, Oregon, or Florida would consider dropping Nike.

There is ZERO chance that happens as well.

“Schools can’t stop any of them: Nike, Under Armour, Adidas,” said David Carter, executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute. “They don’t have the contractual ability to do that.”

Aside from having no legal ground to void their deals, what alternative do schools have? Nike writes the biggest checks and sells the most merchandise, which handsomely increases these universities bottom line. And we all know that the NCAA always protects the bottom line before the student-athlete.

Breaking Away From Nike

I conducted a poll on Twitter. Thanks to all those who voted and shared. Reading the comments on this poll was fascinating. There were a lot of “let’s rock the vote” comments going on, which only proves my point about Twitter boycotts. They trend, but rarely result in a significant economic impact.

How can a sports fan realistically #BoycottNike? It’s impossible. Nike is the official apparel company for the NFL, NBA, most college basketball teams, and 52.8% of all FBS college football programs. So, if you want to rep your favorite team, you will be giving Nike some cash. And you will absolutely see plenty of swooshes and commercials as you watch the games. Nike also owns Converse and Hurley as well. So, good luck with that.

It is your right to hate or love Nike for signing Kaepernick. However, you have no soul if you hate this commercial.

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*Updated Sept. 11th 10:26 am pt to reflect Nike’s YTD stock price

LeBron James – “More Than an Athlete” and an Inspiration to Young Athletes

Shut-up and dribble” were words spoken to LeBron James earlier this year after he made comments criticizing President Trump. “Shut-up and dribble” is a sentiment shared by many sports fans who wish to see athletes remain in their athletic box and not use their platforms to facilitate change. James has refused to “shut-up and dribble” and has used his platform to show young athletes that it is possible to be “more than an athlete” by opening the I Promise School earlier this week. King James, regarded by many as the greatest athlete in the world, was “more than an athlete” when he, in conjunction with Akron Public Schools opened the I Promise School for at-risk youth in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. James opened the school with the vision of helping at-risk children overcome many of the same obstacles he faced at their age.

King James is destroying the “shut-up and dribble” mentality that refuses to acknowledge professional athletes as anything more than an athlete performing a sport for viewer pleasure, while simultaneously creating a paradigm shift in the mindset of young athletes and other at-risk youth. Young athletes, particularly those from at-risk neighborhoods, view their athletic abilities as a mechanism to escape adverse circumstances and rarely think of their abilities as a gateway to something greater than athletics. Young athletes fail to have a greater view because their professional athlete role models have complied with the “shut-up and dribble” mentality and have been reluctant to challenge the status quo in fear that such a challenge could cost them their job.LeBron James 'I Promise' School Info

LeBron James realized that his unique set of skills and abilities set him apart from other athletes and has placed him in a unique position to challenge the “shut-up and dribble” mentality and show young athletes that they too can be “more than an athlete.” Opening the I Promise School is the embodiment of being more than an athlete and is a direct demonstration of the accomplishments that young athletes and the youth in black, brown, and at-risk communities should strive to achieve.

LeBron’s example in opening the I Promise School may change the mindset of young athletes and black and brown youth alike by making them bolder in the pursuit of their education and endeavors outside of athletics. His example has shown young athletes that they do not have to be defined by their athletic abilities and should seek to establish an identity that is untethered to their athletic prowess. Witnessing the opening of the, I Promise School may broaden the minds of young athletes and black and brown youth by making them more independent in their thinking when it comes time choose a college and a major.

The opening of this school has provided young athletes and all at-risk youth with an example of how to give back to their community and establish an ownership interest in their community that can be used to create jobs and other opportunities that were not there before. Perhaps most importantly, LeBron’s opening of the I Promise School in the prime of his basketball career is a direct demonstration that it is possible to be socially conscious and socially active while dominating on the court.

The I Promise School is a game changer in every respect. It is destroying the rhetoric that athletes should simply stick to athletics. The school is offering hope to an at-risk community and is sparking a conversation that others similarly situated to LeBron James should follow suit and engage in similar endeavors in their respective communities. Most importantly, it has made an impression on the minds of young athletes and may inspire them to dream a different dream where they are not only superstar athletes but are also superstars in their communities and in the greater global society.