A Baptist university in Georgia is cutting ties with Nike in response to a new ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Emir Caner, president of Truett McConnell University, announced Sept. 7 that the Georgia Baptist Convention-owned school will no longer purchase or carry apparel by an athletic company that uses someone who “mocks our troops” to market their products.
“For Nike to … hire Colin Kaepernick, a person known for wearing pigs on his socks, mocking law enforcement, kneeling against our flag and mocking our troops, is reprehensible to my family and to the Truett McConnell family,” said Caner, president of the private Christian school in Cleveland, Georgia, since 2008.
Caner said any profits from remaining Nike gear sold through the campus store will be donated to Wounded Warriors and the Fraternal Order of Police.
“If Nike chooses to apologize to our troops and to our law enforcement officers, then – and only then – will TMU reconsider their brand,” Caner said. “In the meanwhile, let us honor true heroes, those who protect us daily, some even sacrificing their own lives. They are the true heroes.”
The announcement came days after Nike unveiled a new advertisement featuring the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sparked controversy two years ago by kneeling during the pre-game playing of the National Anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans.
The Oregon-based sportswear and apparel company introduced Kaepernick as one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign in a commercial featuring the words, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Kaepernick, an undrafted free agent who has not played in the NFL since 2016, filed a grievance last fall claiming team owners were colluding to keep him out of the league.
The new ad sparked anger among conservatives, including President Donald Trump, who said the endorsement deal sends “a terrible message” and talk of boycotts across the country. Last Sunday a Southern Baptist pastor in Mobile, Alabama, cut up his Nike headband and sweatband during his sermon at Woodbridge Baptist Church to show his disdain for the ad campaign.
“I’ve been wearing Nike’s jogging shoes since 1980,” senior pastor Mack Morris told the congregation. “I’ve got news for you. I’ve bought my last pair of Nike shoes.”
Evangelist Franklin Graham criticized the ad in a series of tweets saying “starting a movement disrespecting the American flag isn’t ‘sacrificing everything’” and that a contract with Nike “isn’t a sacrifice.”
“Racial injustice is never acceptable, and all Americans need to work against it,” Graham continued. “But I think there are much better ways to bring about change than seemingly disrespecting the flag or the anthem that represents the very freedoms that have made this nation the best on earth.”
The head of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the humanitarian charity Samaritan’s Purse compared it to “a kick in the gut to all those who have served under that flag, some making the ultimate sacrifice, to make our freedoms possible.”
Backlash to the new ad campaign notwithstanding, Nike sales grew 31 percent over the Labor Day holiday this year compared with the previous year.
Kaepernick, who entered the NFL as a Christian celebrity because of Bible verses tattooed up and down his arms, responded to the controversy by selling a customized jersey with the hashtag #IMWITHKAP on his personal website.
The shirts, not affiliated with Nike, retailed at $174.99 for adults and $99.99 for kids, sold out quickly. Kaepernick said the proceeds would go to the Know Your Rights Camp, a campaign he founded to raise youth awareness about self-empowerment and interacting with law enforcement.
Kaepernick recently completed his Million Dollar Pledge, donating $1 million of his own money to 37 different organizations fighting for justice. He also rallied the support of friends like Kobe Bryant, Steph Curry and Serena Williams to raise matching funds that totaled an additional $400,000.
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