Has Colin Kaepernick been on Nike's payroll all this time?

I suppose Labor Day was as good of a pick as any for Nike to announce that Colin Kaepernick would be the new face of their next “Just Do It” campaign. Half the country wasn’t paying any attention and the other half already had their grills fired up so they could burn their sneakers on them. So how did the sports gear company arrive at this curious decision? (Bleacher Report)

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports later reported that Kaepernick and Nike agreed to a new contract despite the fact Kaepernick has been with the company since 2011. Robinson added that “interest from other shoe companies” played a part in the new agreement.

Per Robinson, the contract is a “wide endorsement” where Kaepernick will have his own branded line including shoes, shirts, jerseys and more. According to Robinson, Kaepernick signed a “star” contract that puts him level with a “top-end NFL player” worth millions per year plus royalties.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told Steve Wyche of NFL Media about the decision two years ago. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

One ESPN reporter jumped on the obvious question which the news release generated. We haven’t seen much of Kaepernick in terms of advertisements, endorsements, etc. since all this National Anthem protest nonsense started. But if we’re reading Nike’s announcement correctly, Kaepernick has been on their payroll all this time.

Keen observation. I’d just assumed that he was living off all of the millions he made playing for the 49ers, but having some sweet Nike cash on top of that couldn’t have hurt. And now he’ll seriously be rolling in some green, though thankfully not the green of a Jets uniform. (There was some talk about that last year.)

The theme of the Kaepernick endorsement rollout is drawing some guffaws and for good reason. The media is already dutifully lining up to celebrate how this is the best thing ever. One commentator at USA Today made it sound like a new Declaration of Independence had just been issued. “Decades from now, when Americans look back at the NFL player protests and wonder how anyone could have seen them for anything but the plea for equality they are, Colin Kaepernick’s new Nike ad will be one the enduring images.”

Spare me. Just look at the tagline they’ve chosen. “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

I have little doubt that Kaepernick believes in something. There’s no reason to doubt his sincerity, as misguided as it may be and as inappropriate of a venue he chose. But saying “sacrifice” implies that his activism took something away from him. The reality is that Kaepernick wasn’t persecuted. How do we know? Because he had a multimillion-dollar deal with the Broncos and turned it down. And as we’ve discussed many times before here, he could have had a QB job any number of places.

While not at the top of his game when he left San Francisco, he was at least good enough to get a backup QB job. But the amount of angst and bad PR a team is willing to put up with from you is directly proportional to how likely you are to take them to the Super Bowl. Kaepernick’s crap tolerance quotient dropped every time he took a knee and every time he insisted he would keep doing it. If he’d taken his protests to press conferences after the games instead of on the field he’d probably have been working steadily, even if he wasn’t starting. This is a choice he made, not a sacrifice imposed on him by an unfair society.

And what’s with Nike diving into this mess right now, anyway? Didn’t we just have a discussion about companies dredging up politics to inject into sports? They’re in a very competitive market space. Who is the brainiac at Nike who thought potentially ticking off half of their target market was a killer marketing strategy? We’ll see how that part of the formula plays out as we get closer to the playoffs.

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Jazz Shaw 8:31 AM on December 04, 2022