Kaepernick will be one of the faces of Nike's 30th anniversary commemoration of its iconic "Just Do It" slogan. The campaign will also feature athletes such as Serena Williams, NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and Shaquem Griffin, a rookie linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks whose left hand was amputated when he was a child.


Kaepernick tweeted out a photo from the campaign on Monday. Over a black-and-white picture of his face, a caption reads, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."


In backing Kaepernick, whom the company has sponsored since 2011, Nike (NKE) is making a high-stakes gamble that its customers support his protest, or at least that enough of them do. The company is also betting its brand can withstand criticism from conservative corners, including the White House.


Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season. That year, he began kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality against African-Americans and other racial injustices. Dozens of other players also began joining Kaepernick, and he has grown into a symbol of dividing lines over race in America.


By Tuesday afternoon, that tweet had been shared more than 11,000 times. Others shared photographs and videos of Nike shoes that appeared to be on fire or in the trash.


Andrew Morse, who lives near Detroit, saw Rich’s photo and recalled thinking, “What a weird thing to do.”


“If you don’t want to wear them, you can do something with those socks,” Morse said in an interview on Tuesday. “Someone could be using those socks right now.”


After seeing Rich’s tweet, Morse bought 30 pairs of Nike socks on Amazon and sent them to Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit nonprofit that helps at-risk women and girls. He shared a photo of his purchase on Twitter.



Before Monday, Morse, who owns an HVAC company and runs a Detroit Lions fan page on Twitter and YouTube, said he had not previously favored Nike apparel over other sports brands. But that changed after Nike unveiled the campaign and he saw the opposition to it online, he said.


“It makes me proud of Nike in a way that they would stand for what they believe in,” Morse, 31, said.


Many people voiced similar sentiments online, pledging to buy Nike products or showing their receipts. Nike was also commended by some athletes, including Eric Reid, who was one of the first N.F.L. players to protest with Kaepernick and is now himself a free agent pursuing a grievance against the league, as well as Serena Williams, who signed onto the new ad campaign alongside Kaepernick.


Close watchers of social media were quick to note that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose political opinions have been much scrutinized, liked several Instagram posts sharing the Kaepernick ad campaign.


Even the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan weighed in with support, writing on Twitter that Kaepernick “drew our collective attention to the problem of continued racial injustice in America.”


But critics of the decision pledged to boycott Nike products, and a #BoycottNike hashtag spread on Twitter. (It was unclear how widespread or organized such a boycott might be.)



Many shared a version of the Nike ad altered to show the face of Pat Tillman, who left the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army and was serving in Afghanistan when he was killed in 2004. (His widow has asked that his memory not be politicized.)


And some, including the former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, criticized Kaepernick’s stance toward the police, pointing out that the player had worn socks depicting cartoon pigs in police caps.



Kaepernick accused the N.F.L. of colluding to keep him off the field because of his activism, and he scored a victory when an arbitrator let his case advance in a ruling disclosed last week.



In a statement on Tuesday, Jocelyn Moore, a spokeswoman for the league, said, “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”


Kaepernick in a Nike advertisement that is part of its campaign for the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan.CreditReuters
Some people reacted to the Nike campaign with mixed feelings, noting that the company’s decision was likely to be good for business.

Nike’s stock price fell more than 2 percent in early trading Tuesday. While some investors were most likely nervous that the Kaepernick announcement would inspire boycotts, the stock price of a main competitor, Adidas, was also down more than 2 percent amid a broader downturn, which was partly attributed to worries about tense negotiations over Nafta.


“Activists, organizers and leaders sometimes make mistakes, and I think he made a mistake by aligning himself with a company that exploits workers and breaks unions,” Clemente, 46, said in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s not just a capitalist company — it’s a hyper-capitalist company.”


David M. Carter, the executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, Marshall, said Nike had tried to brand itself as a company that supports individual athletes and could benefit from keeping Kaepernick’s activism in the news cycle.

“I think it’s very consistent with the Nike brand, and I think what is different about what we’re seeing today is that this is happening in this era of immediacy, with the media and the keyboard warriors out there on both sides, making their point,” Carter said in an interview on Tuesday.

Nike was criticized in the 1990s over reports that employees at overseas factories were working long hours for low pay and in dangerous conditions. In 1998, the company pledged to root out illegal labor practices, but criticism and protests have continued.

The company says that it “does not own or operate the facilities which produce our products,” adding, “However, we are prioritizing and growing relationships with suppliers who share our commitment to respect human rights and are investing in their workforces.”

This year, Nike also reckoned with the #MeToo movement when women at the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., came forward with complaints about marginalization and a toxic work environment, which led to the departures of several high-level executives.

Clemente said that it was “fascinating” to see opponents of Kaepernick taking a stand against a large corporation like Nike. “They are taking from our playbook of protest,” she said.


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