On Monday, Nike dropped a “Just Do It” ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. The tag line referenced the unemployed quarterback’s nonviolent protest of police brutality against people of color, the very protest that has kept him out of the NFL and is the subject of a collusion lawsuit against the National Football League.
The reaction from those who have demonized Kaepernick as un-American or disrespectful to the military or police was predictable. Some ripped Nike logos off their already-purchased sportswear, while others put pictures or videos of them destroying the products they already paid Nike to own.
But the response on the other side of the argument — those that support Kaepernick or, at the very least, support Nike — have been predictably supportive of the striking ad campaign. That includes LeBron James, a Nike athlete and prominent supporter of athletes doing more than just play sports who eventually appeared in a Kaepernick-narrated Nike commercial.
According to the Associated Press, James spoke on Tuesday night as he received an award from Harlem’s Fashion Row for his style and philanthropy and added a line about Nike to his closing remarks that was a clear comment about the controversy around Kaepernick and Nike’s ad.
Closing his remarks, he said he stood “for anybody who believes in change.” He added: “I stand with Nike, all day, every day.”
You can be as skeptical as you want about this statement, in that LeBron has about a billion reasons to “stand with Nike” given that he has a lifetime contract with the apparel maker. He also didn’t specifically say he supports Kaepernick, though when you consider who tends to criticize the two athletes with similar language, it’s a good bet that they’re on the same side in many ways.
James hasn’t addressed president Donald Trump since he questioned his intelligence late one Friday night in August, but he’s stayed engaged in the political conversation and his quest to prove that he’s “more than an athlete.” In this sense, it seems siding with Kaepernick is logical, and more about ideology than economics.