Sports giant Nike's ad with American football player Colin Kaepernick is causing controversy on both sides of the political spectrum. The quarterback is the most prominent face of the "take a knee" protests.
Nike's stock was down 2.5 percent on Tuesday after the company's controversial new ad featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was unveiled on Monday.
Nike is just the latest sports brand to face boycott calls. Industry analysts said that their position could alienate some customers, while winning over others, but that such controversy often blows over quickly.
"Nike is not a stranger to backing sporting personalities who take views and act on them. Politicizing sport is likely to result in polarizing demographics," said John Guy, an analyst at Mainfirst Bank in London.
Athletic clothing manufacturer Under Armour faced criticism last year after its chief executive made comments supporting Trump and Adidas was urged in May to cut its ties to rapper Kanye West after he described slavery as a choice and praised Trump.
Critics of Kaepernick, who have framed his protest as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the US military, took to Twitter to hit out at the Nike deal.
Some fans have burned Nike goods, with the hashtag #JustBurnIt (a play on Nike's "Just Do It") trending alongside #BoycottNike.
Country music singer John Rich posted a photo of a pair of slashed Nike sports socks.
"Our Soundman just cut the Nike swoosh off his socks," Rich wrote on Twitter. "Get ready @Nike multiply that by the millions."
One user going by the name Sean Clancy posted a video of burning Nike shoes, which was viewed more than 4 million times.
Others however showed their support of Kaepernick.
"Colin Kaepernick drew our collective attention to the problem of continued racial injustice in America," former CIA director John Brennan wrote on Twitter.
Nike's sponsorship deal with Kaepernick is liable to further advance the issue of the national anthem and player protests against police violence during the coming season, increasing pressure on the NFL to broker a solution.
In June, President Donald Trump canceled the visit of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to the White House after several players indicated they would not attend.
NFL owners approved a new policyin May which made it mandatory for all players on the field to stand during the pre-match ritual of the US national anthem, albeit allowing them to stay in the locker room if they didn't wish to take part.
However the new policy was shelved in July as the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to reopen dialogue to reach agreement on a new approach.
Controversy began in 2016
Kaepernick triggered a political firestorm for kneeling during the US national anthemin 2016 to protest racial injustice. He has not played in the NFL since early last year.
The new Nike ads, which were unveiled just days before the kick-off of the 2018 NFL season on Thursday, show a portrait of Kaepernick with the slogan: "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
Kaepernick posted the advert on his Twitter account followed by #JustDoIt.
ESPN has reported that Nike kept Kaepernick, who signed a sponsorship deal with the company in 2011, was on its payroll throughout the controversy of the past two years.
"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," said Gino Fisanotti, Nike's vice president of brand for North America.
The ad's release comes just days after Kaepernick was cheered by spectators when he appeared alongside fellow player and activist Eric Reid at the US Open tennis tournament to watch Serena Williams on Friday.
Kaepernick's protests on the football field have become a bitterly divisive issue amongst NFL fans after President Donald Trump reignited the controversy during a campaign rally in September last year.
Trump described players like Kaepernick who knelt for the anthem as "sons of bitches" who should be fired. The US president has repeated those criticisms frequently over the past year, even suggesting at one stage that protesting players "shouldn't be in the country".
av/msh (Reuters, AFP)