Nike’s decision to make former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick the face of its new ad campaign is prompting Liberty University to take a long, hard look at dropping the company as a sponsor of its athletic program.
University President Jerry Falwell Jr. made the announcement Friday, saying the school “wants to find a supplier that supports veterans, the U.S. flag, American values and law enforcement,” WSET-TV in Lynchburg, Virginia, reported.
Nike currently sponsors jerseys, apparel and equipment for Liberty, which is a Division I college.
“We’re exploring the situation,” Falwell said, according to USA Today.
He said he needs to know the reasons behind Nike’s decision, which was revealed by Kaepernick earlier in the week when he tweeted an image from the campaign that showed his face and the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
That was followed by a television commercial narrated by Kaepernick in which he says, “If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what that you think you can do, good, stay that way. Don’t believe you have to be like anybody to be somebody.”
Kaepernick emerged as a national figure in 2016 after he refused to stand for the national anthem, alleging that America was racist, particularly in the ranks of law enforcement. Kaepernick’s actions were emulated by others in the NFL and across other sports, drawing the condemnation of many Americans, including President Donald Trump.
Nike’s decision to make the divisive figure the face of the 30th anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign spurred a wave of protests. Some fans responded by burning gear with the company’s signature swoosh logo or saying they no longer will purchase Nike products.
“If the company really has animus toward police officers, or if they’re intentionally disrespecting our flag, our veterans, our national anthem, as part of some mission of the company and using their resources to do it, then why deal with them when there are plenty of other good athletic companies out there?” Falwell said, according to the Lynchburg News Advance.
“If we have a contract, we’ll honor it, but we strongly support law enforcement and strongly support our military and veterans who died to protect our freedoms, and if the company really believes what Colin Kaepernick believes, it’s going to be hard for us to keep doing business with them,” he said.
Falwell said he is not naive to the nuances of 21st century marketing ploys.
“On the other hand, if they are just trying to make money off the attention that former quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been receiving, then we understand that that’s just marketing and we’ll probably overlook it,” Falwell said.
He said that if Nike wants to keep its sponsorship, the company — which had no comment as of Friday — needs to talk to the college.
“They’re going to have to convince us that they’re not proactively attacking law enforcement officers and our military. If that’s the reason behind using this ad, we’re going to have a hard time staying,” Falwell said.
Liberty University is under contract with Nike through 2024.
College of the Ozarks, a Christian college in Missouri, has already made its decision.
“In their new ad campaign, we believe Nike executives are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America,” College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis said in announcing the college was dropping any connection with Nike.
Dr. Jerry C. Davis: “If you want to find sacrifice, you’re more likely to find that in somebody that wears this nation’s uniform not somebody out on some athletic field that’s making a lot of money.” https://t.co/3pNncgO63j pic.twitter.com/x1UxrY58vb
— Fox News (@FoxNews) September 7, 2018
“If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them. We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform,” Davis said.
The college said both it and Nike can exercise freedom.
“Nike is free to campaign as it sees fit, as the College is free, and honor-bound by its mission and goals, to ensure that it respects our country and those who truly served and sacrificed,” Marci Linson, the school’s vice president for patriotic activities and dean of admissions, said, according to the Kansas City Star.
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