Credit: Nike

Nike began the 30th anniversary celebration of its “Just Do It” ad campaign with a splash. On Labor Day, the company revealed that former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick would be a representative for this campaign.

The shoe and athletic apparel juggernaut released a series of ads on social media promoting the anniversary. Although the rollout featured NFL players Odell Beckham Jr. and Shaquem Griffin, tennis star Serena Williams, skateboarder Lacey Baker and NBA star LeBron James, Kaepernick’s name made waves around the internet.

Plastered across an up-close, black and white picture of Kaepernick is the phrase “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The Nike logo and the “Just Do It” phrase could be found at the bottom of the picture.

Along with the ads, anonymous sources reported that Nike would produce Kaepernick apparel, including shoes and T-shirts. If that merchandise sells, the value of his deal would rival current top NFL players.

Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, became the center of controversy in the intersection between sports, pop culture and politics when he began kneeling during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” before games. He used his protest to direct attention to police brutality, particularly toward African-American men, boys, women and girls. President Donald Trump used the protests as a flashpoint to rally his conservative support base. Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since his contract expired after the 2016 season.

Although NFL officials didn’t comment on the Kaepernick deal, they did announce a 10-year extension of their partnership with Nike to make NFL merchandise.

The morning after the Kaepernick announcement, Nike’s shares fell more than 2 percent. Although conservatives on social media tried to paint it as a reaction to featuring Kaepernick as a part of its campaign and #NikeBoycott trended on Twitter, the shares for other shoes companies (Under Armour, Reebok, Adidas, Puma and Asics) met similar fates the same morning. Some of the losses came as a result of reports that Trump wants to force Canada to sign a new North American Free Trade Agreement on his terms. His administration’s preparations to roll out new tariffs on products from China have attributed to negative speculation on the market as well.

Nike’s Vice President of Brand for North America Gino Fisanotti told ESPN, “We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward. We wanted to energize its meaning an introduce ‘Just Do It’ to a new generation of athletes.”

Fisanotti also told the network that this version of the “Just Do It” campaign is aimed at high school-aged teens.

Kaepernick received good news the weekend leading up to Labor Day. His allegations against the NFL accusing them of colluding into denying him a contract as punishment for his protests will get a formal hearing. An arbitrator denied the league’s request for a summary judgment.

Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, posted a copy of the letter he received from arbitrator, Stephen Burbank, on social media last week. The letter read, “On August 28, 2018, the System Arbitrator denied the NFL’s request that he dismiss Colin Kaepernick’s complaint alleging that his inability to secure a player contract since becoming a free agent in march 2017 has been due to an agreement among team owners and the NFL that violates Article 17, Section 1 of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA (union).”