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San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (58) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) take a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

When I heard that Nike was featuring NFL free agent and activist Colin Kaepernick on its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” advertisement, I was genuinely surprised. I can’t believe Nike is willing to take a political stance.

The zoom on Kaepernick’s unwavering face is rigid and gives the ad an intimidating feel. The words "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” are plastered across Kaepernick’s face.

The quote encompasses Kaepernick’s personal journey over the past two years. He began kneeling during the national anthem in the 2016 preseason to protest racial injustices against African-Americans.

Those who look down on Kaepernick typically consider him a polarizing and ungrateful athlete. Since igniting the kneeling phenomenon, Kaepernick rarely makes public appearances. He simply used his platform as an athlete to allow his actions to speak for him.

Whether you support Kaepernick or not, you have to recognize his unwillingness to let society define him. He doesn’t let the outside world put words in his mouth.

An American brand, Nike thrives off worldwide revenue. It will not take a big economic hit through this campaign.

Homemade clips featuring Nike customers burning their products circulated throughout social media Sunday. I understand peoples’ desire to show their displeasure with Nike. However, these disgruntled folks already purchased the product(s) being burned, so what’s the point? If trashing your own shoes makes you feel better about the situation, more power to you. The damage was done as soon as the purchase was made.

On May 24, NFL owners unanimously approved a national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance. Players who do not wish to stand may choose to remain in the locker room. However, the NFL and its players’ union put a halt to the policy July 20 as the two sides continue to debate the issue.

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem,” President Donald Trump told Fox News in May 2018. “Or else you shouldn’t be playing [in the NFL]. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.

A Twitter rant from Trump geared toward Nike and its decision to team with Kaepernick is inevitable at this point. Vice President Mike Pence also opposes the kneeling incidents. He promptly left an Indianapolis Colts versus San Francisco 49ers game in 2017 after witnessing the protests.

The ad will also create turmoil between Nike and the NFL, as Nike is the official supplier of uniforms and apparel for the NFL’s 32 teams. Kaepernick has been a free agent in the NFL since March 2017 and accused the NFL and its team owners of colluding to not hire him in November of that year.

By choosing to feature Kaepernick, Nike’s goal isn’t to boost sales. Instead, it allowed the company to choose a side in the “Kaepernick versus NFL” debacle, giving the athlete another platform to voice his views.

Managing Editor

Huffmon is a fourth-year communications student from Tiffin, Ohio. He often covers UC athletics. He interned at the Kentucky Speedway in the summer of 2019 and has written for the Plain Dealer and the Cincinnati Enquirer.