Last week, Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who two years ago sparked a national controversy by being the first to ‘take the knee' — and not stand for the US national anthem — entered into a contract with Nike which makes him the face of the company for the foreseeable future.
The reaction among conservative Republicans was swift and harsh, as many condemned the company and called for a boycott of its products.
But the backlash galvanized those who support the laws of racial equality in the nation, and the call for boycott only increased the company's footprint as orders have spiked over the past week.
A new ad featuring Kaepernick debuted last Monday. and while some Nike customers took to Twitter to vent their displeasure over the decision, many others praised it. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback — as part of the campaign — posted the black-and-white close-up of his face featuring the quote: "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
The choice of Kaepernick prompted some Nike customers to express outrage by publicly destroying their branded gear. Social media outlets were flooded with posts to boycott the sportswear giant, while some users went so far as to burn and deface their Nike clothes and sneakers.
But the boycott backlash has kicked the sportswear giant into high gear, as, according to a digital commerce research company, product orders rose 27 percent between Sunday through Wednesday. During the same four-day period last year, orders decreased by 2 percent, the Guardian reported Saturday.
"Nike's 2018 late summer sales show much the same trend as last year's with order volume decreasing slightly going into late August. The similarity decreases coming out of Labor Day weekend, however, with sales seeing a bigger bump on Monday and Tuesday than in the past," the company wrote in recent statement. The analysis was based on "anonymised and aggregated e-receipts from more than 3 million consumers."
Kaepernick became the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem before games in 2016 in protest against racial injustice and police brutality in the US. In May, the NFL adopted a fresh national anthem policy requiring all players to stand during the anthem or remain in the locker room until the ceremony was over.
In a controversial tweet earlier this year, US President Donald Trump criticized the NFL over allowing players to kneel during the national anthem, writing: "[the] NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!"
On Tuesday, Trump told right wing website Daily Caller, "I think it's a terrible message that [Nike] are sending and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there's a reason for them doing it. But I think as far as sending a message, I think it's a terrible message and a message that shouldn't be sent. There's no reason for it."
A day later, he tweeted, "Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!"
But orders for Nike products have risen, and by a significant margin, even as the debate against racial injustice and police brutality in the US rages on.
In an open letter to league owners in July, Guardian sports columnist Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote: "It's been two years since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee to protest systemic racial injustice, especially police brutality, against people of color. The worst thing about that isn't that two years later we're still debating whether players have the right to protest, it's that not much has changed regarding what Kaepernick was protesting."