A small, private Christian college in Point Lookout, Missouri made headlines this week after the global apparel company Nike cut an ad with controversial football athlete Colin Kaepernick. The College of the Ozarks, whose enrollment is approximately 1,440 students per year, announced it will cut its ties with Nike, Campus Reform reported. For higher education institutions, these apparel deals are important for their athletics programs and could provide much-needed financial support for their athletes.
For example, Nike’s competitors, Adidas and UnderArmour, negotiated multi-million-dollar apparel deals with universities such as Notre Dame, UCLA, and Miami (Florida). In the case of Notre Dame, a historic and iconic Catholic university in South Bend, Indiana, was lured away from seventeen-year partner Adidas in 2014 to UnderArmour for the amount of $90 million over 10 years.
Nike, which is based in Oregon, released an ad this week, entitled, “Dream Crazy,” and it featured Colin Kaepernick as its spokesperson for the ad campaign. During the ad, Kaepernick appears and makes a statement of risking everything for the sake of one’s beliefs, which indicates to the audience that he sacrificed his career for his personal beliefs.
Liberty University, an evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, also hinted it could tear up its agreement with Nike over the ad. Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. told the press that he will look into whether the university could back out of its apparel deal with Nike and see if the contract would allow for them to seek a new sponsor for its athletics gear. Liberty University signed a deal with Nike in 2017 that would end in 2024. Falwell said the following:
“We’re exploring the situation,” Falwell said. “If Nike really does believe that law enforcement in this country is unfair and biased, I think we will look around. 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.
“But if it’s just a publicity stunt to bring attention to Nike or whatever, that’s different. We understand that. We understand how marketing works. But 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.”
Kaepernick is a former professional football athlete in the National Football League (NFL) and played for the San Francisco 49ers. Two years ago, Kaepernick protested during the playing of the American national anthem by kneeling or sitting on the bench because he felt the flag represented police brutality and racism against black Americans. That protest sparked significant backlash among the NFL fans and its owners, and television ratings fell compared to the previous year. President Donald Trump weighed in on the controversy and did not support Kaepernick’s visible protest of the national anthem. Other players also participated in the protests during the season, including a teammate of Kaepernick’s named Eric Reid. Now, Kaepernick and Reid are no longer employed in the league, but Kaepernick is suing the NFL for colluding against him and accuses the league’s owners of blacklisting him.
However, Nike did not acknowledge Kaepernick’s blatant anti-police and pro-communist rhetoric. In interviews with the press, Kaepernick wore a shirt with the image of communist guerilla Che Guevara on it. He also wore socks during a pre-game warm-up, which depicted police officers as pigs, and never apologized for wearing these designed socks and the message it portrayed.