Five months ago, over Labor Day weekend, sporting goods behemoth Nike unveiled its latest ad campaign featuring a number of athletes beneath the iconic “Just Do It” slogan. Among the sporting superstars was Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who twice led the San Francisco 49ers to the playoffs before he was blackballed by the league.
Kaepernick, of course, is now most famous for catalyzing a worldwide movement against police brutality and racial injustice by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem throughout the 2016 season, a symbolic gesture that has been replicated by thousands of athletes at every level of sport across the globe.
Since then, many conservatives, like President Donald Trump, have sought to falsely portray the movement as unpatriotic and anti-military, routinely leveling racist attacks against Kaepernick and his allies. So when Nike announced its partnership with Kaepernick, these same conservatives redirected their ire at Nike, vowing to never again buy products bearing the famous Swoosh.
If Nike misses its former customers, it’s not letting on. On Wednesday, the company’s stock nearly hit an all-time high, having already more than made up for the brief blip in its trading price in the days after the Kaepernick announcement. And earlier this week, one retailer in Colorado found out just how costly a principled stand in support of institutionalized racism can be.
Stephen Martin has owned and operated Prime Time Sports in a suburban mall in Colorado Springs for years. Like many independent sporting goods retailers, his store stocked team-licensed products from companies like Adidas, Under Armour, and Nike. But last year, the store removed Nike products from its shelves in protest.
“That part of the military respect that’s in me just cannot be sacrificed or compromised,” Martin told a local NBC affiliate, explaining why he cut business ties with the official outfitters of Army West Point and the Air Force Academy.
As it turns out, that decision also cost him his company.
“Being a sports store without Nike is kind of like being a milk store without milk or a gas station without gas. How do you do it? They have a monopoly on jerseys,” Martin said this week, explaining his financial predicament.
“As much as I hate to admit this, perhaps there are more Brandon Marshall and Colin Kaepernick supporters out there than I realized,” he added, referring to the Denver Broncos linebacker who has also taken a knee in protest in recent seasons.
Indeed, despite being out of the league for the past two seasons, Kaepernick’s jersey and other apparel is among the best-selling licensed apparel in the NFL, and after Nike’s ad campaign went public, the company beat sales forecasts by wide margins.
The Nike “boycott” followed a similar script to another conservative attempt to punish a company for taking a principled stand: After Dick’s Sporting Goods banned the sale of semiautomatic guns in their store shortly after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, pro-gun activists urged conservatives to pull their business from the chain. As with Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods’ stock is higher today than it was a year ago.