Double down: Nike releases new ad for NFL season opener -- narrated by Colin Kaepernick

They could have limited him to print ads. Nike’s marketing team must be very confident that making Kaep the face of the brand, however briefly, won’t come back to bite.

The company’s always done schmaltz well. The interesting thing about this spot is that the political angle is all subtext. It’s not a tribute to Kaepernick and his cause, or at least not overtly; he isn’t even formally identified. It’s standard “chase your dreams” drool about athletes. The viewer’s left to infer that if crazy dreams about athletic stardom can come true, maybe Kaep’s dream of a woker society can too.

But it’s all inference, just like the print campaign. (“Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”) To all appearances, Nike’s planning to build an ad campaign around the most controversially progressive guy in sports — well, who used to be in sports — without ever specifically addressing why he’s controversial.

The other striking thing about it is how unusual it is at this point to simply hear Kaepernick speak. He’s somehow been in the middle of a raging public debate fueled by the president over patriotism and protest without having given an interview in ages. He’s acquired a certain mystique. Watching it, you get the sense that he’s given up on football (or that he’s resigned to the fact that football’s given up on him): Now that he’s been slotted into the role of inspirational figure whose fame is allegedly such that he needn’t even be named, it’s hard to imagine him going to the Buffalo Bills, say, and platooning. This is his introduction as a full-time social-change icon. At least for six months, until Nike decides that the campaign is stale and it’s time to do something with Serena Williams or Tom Brady or whoever.