Nike stocks plunged on Tuesday after the sportswear giant unveiled a “disastrous” new advertising campaign featuring the divisive figure Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback who sparked a series of nation-wide protests after he courted controversy by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.
Nike Inc shares were marked 2.5% lower in the opening minutes of trading on Wall Street, the biggest decline in the company’s history since July 3, and were changing hands at $80.14 each — equating to a real world loss of over $3 billion for the Oregon-based sportswear manufacturer.
The Street reports: While Nike’s previous campaigns have defined sports culture in the United States and helped developed the global stardom of athletes such as Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Roger Federer while generating billions in revenues for the world’s biggest sportswear company, its current effort has courted immediate controversy and could lead to customer backlash in its biggest market, where it is already losing ground to its main global rival Adidas.
Twitter hashtags such as #BoycottNike and #JustBurnIt have gained significant traction in the hours following Kaepernick’s Tweet, and very likely to attract the attention of President Donald Trump, who has used his own account on several occasions to attack the NFL, its commissioner Roger Goodell, and various American football players for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.
Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in early 2016, and although his actions were not immediately picked up by the local and national media, it soon spread across the league — and into other professional sports — as players joined the 30-year old quarterback’s silent protest.
Since then, the movement has proven to be both incredibly divisive and significantly costly to the NFL, which has seen a steady decline in television ratings since the first protests and ignited a battle between league officials and the player’s union, which has continually supported Kaepernick’s actions.
The league ultimately strengthened its position on anthem protests earlier this year and insisted that players stand at attention during the playing of the anthem, but also allowed for the option of staying in the locker room until the completion of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. However, several players have continued to kneel during pre-seasons games this year.
Kapernick, however, has been unable to land a spot in the NFL since becoming a free agent in 2017 and has accused the league of colluding against him on the basis of his political opinions. His case against the league was given a major boost last week, in fact, when he was approval for a full hearing in the ongoing dispute, a move that will allow his legal team to depose NFL officials such as Goodell and team owners such as Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.