ON THE night the NFL opened its 2018 regular season in Philadelphia, the face of a quarterback who hadn't played in more than 600 days was on screens across the country. Early in the second half of the Eagles' 18--12 win over the Falcons, NBC aired a two-minute commercial for Nike, with Colin Kaepernick imploring viewers to "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
Meanwhile, Kaepernick was on the other side of the country at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., attending the company's 30th anniversary celebration of its Just Do It ad campaign. "Thank you for believing in me," Kaepernick told the crowd from an outdoor stage.
So why does Nike believe in Colin Kaepernick? He last played an NFL game on Jan. 1, 2017, the same season he began taking a knee during the national anthem, in protest of police brutality and racial inequality in America. By making him the face of a major ad campaign, Nike made a statement; it also made what it clearly believes is a prudent business decision. "As much money as Nike makes off black people," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said the night the commercial aired, "it was smart for them, because they know the people who support Kaepernick and justice and equality also buy apparel."
It was, nonetheless, a risk. Kaepernick has become a flashpoint in a national debate about protest and patriotism. Though he pledged $1 million to charitable organizations working on the very causes he supports, Kaepernick is primarily associated with his most public form of protest. Nevertheless, Nike did what large companies are often loath to do—it picked a side.
"There is going to be some cost there, but Nike is looking five, 10 years down the line," says Henry C. Boyd III, a marketing professor at the University of Maryland. "You want a change agent, and he is the change agent for this generation."
The short-term results were encouraging for Nike. The multibillion-dollar corporation's stock reached an all-time high, and in the first few days after the campaign was released there was a surge in online sales compared with the same period last year, according to data collected by e-commerce intelligence company Edison Trends.
So while Kaepernick remains off the playing field, Nike has ensured we'll still be watching him closely this season.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
GEORGIA STATE COACH SHAWN ELLIOTT TORE HIS BICEPS WHILE FIST-PUMPING TO CELEBRATE HIS TEAM'S LONE TOUCHDOWN IN A 41--7 LOSS TO N.C. STATE.
THEY SAID IT
"NYC RATS ARE WAY BIGGER AND MEANER."
METS ACE NOAH SYNDERGAARD,after a rat scurried around New York's dugout during a Sept. 14 game at Fenway Park. He was likewise unfazed by Boston's hitters, allowing just three hits in seven innings in an 8--0 win.