President Trump said Nike is “getting absolutely killed” for an ad featuring former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is suing the NFL for allegedly blacklisting him after he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
Nike shares closed down 3.2% Tuesday, the biggest one-day drop since April, but rebounded in trading Wednesday morning as investors shrugged off Trump’s tweet. Nike shares are up 28% so far this year, outpacing the S&P 500 consumer discretionary sector.
The Nike ad, recognizing the 30th anniversary of its slogan “Just Do It,” is a close-up photograph of Kaepernick with two lines of text. “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” it reads.
Trump criticized the ad in an interview Tuesday and took aim at it again in a tweet Wednesday morning.
“Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts,” Trump wrote. “I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way?”
Nike executives almost certainly anticipated the response from Trump and other conservatives. The publicity has been worth more than $43 million to the company, according to Apex Marketing Group, which said the vast majority of media exposure has been neutral to positive.
Shares in Nike’s top competitor, Adidas, also fell on Tuesday.
Trump said in an interview with the Daily Caller, a conservative website, that “there’s no reason” for Nike to feature Kaepernick in the campaign.
“I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent,” Trump said, though he acknowledged Nike’s right to decide its own marketing strategy. “It is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do, but I personally am on a different side of it.”
In a dispute with unmistakable racial overtones, Trump has regularly criticized the protests begun by Kaepernick, which spread across all of the National Football League’s teams. The players who participate -- nearly all of them black -- kneel or remain seated during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” their response to a spate of police killings of unarmed black men in recent years and other law enforcement abuses.
The president has often used crude and belittling language about the players who engage in the protests. At a political rally in September 2017 he said NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the anthem: “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now!” In a tweet last month, Trump insulted the players’ intelligence, saying that they are protesting “something that most of them are unable to define.”
Kaepernick hasn’t played professionally since 2016, and he filed a grievance against the NFL in November, contending that team owners had colluded to retaliate against him for the protests. An arbitrator allowed Kaepernick to proceed with a lawsuit against the league last month. Kaepernick previously played for the San Francisco 49ers.
Nike signed Kaepernick to an endorsement deal in 2011 and kept him under contract even though he couldn’t get a job in the NFL, ESPN reported Monday. “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,” Gino Fisanotti, Nike’s vice president of brand for North America, told ESPN.