As Nike stands with Colin Kaepernick, some customers are burning their shoes

The relationship also risks the wrath of Donald Trump.

Tim Jimenez
September 04, 2018 - 8:54 am
Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick/Nike via CNN

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio, CNN) — Nike has tapped one of the most polarizing figures in sports to be one of the faces of its “Just Do It” ad campaign, which turns 30 this year.

“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Those are the words superimposed on a black-and-white image of Colin Kaepernick, which Nike is using as it celebrates the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan.

This is yet another log in the fire that is the controversy of athletes kneeling during the national anthem.

RELATED: Kaepernick has new deal with Nike though he's not in NFL

The former San Francisco 49er has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season. That year, he began kneeling during the National Anthem to raise awareness about police brutality against African-Americans and other racial injustices. Dozens of other players began joining Kaepernick, and he has become a symbol of the dividing lines over race in America.

Some who spoke KYW Newsradio and declined to be quoted say Nike made a bad and disrespectful move by standing with Kaepernick. Others are using the hashtag #BoycottNike on social media and burning their sneakers or cutting up socks. 

But, on the other side, Kevin Williams, who served in the military says Kaepernick isn’t disrespecting him. 

“I don’t look at it as disrespect to me. I mean the man is doing it for a purpose, a legitimate and a good and purpose, to me.”

He says the former 49er is bringing attention to racial injustice.

“He’s making a point and a good point. What happened to freedom of speech? My goodness. And he ain’t even talking too loud.”

But Williams says he avoids watching football, a game he loves, because of the controversy.

Nike's public support of Kaepernick also risks the wrath of US President Donald Trump.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly seized on the issue. At a rally in Alabama last year, Trump said team owners should "get that son of a bitch off the field" if a player knelt in protest of injustice during the anthem. Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game after some players knelt.

This is not the first time members of the public have protested against brands by destroying the goods they had previously purchased.

Last April, members of the National Rifle Association took aim at YETI coolers after the company canceled its relationship with the gun-rights lobby.

Some even blew up the coolers, which sell for hundreds of dollars.

In November 2016, customers of sportswear brand New Balance burned their shoes in protest of its perceived support for Trump.

While Nike has received a lot of criticism, others have come out in support.

After seeing Nike's announcement that names Kaepernick the face of the "Just Do It" campaign, venture capitalist Arlan Hamilton bought a pair of Nike shoes.

Hamilton said she did so to show support for Kaepernick and fellow Nike ambassador Serena Williams.

Marcia Loverdi offered her support for the company, claiming she had gone out and bought new sneakers.

"Will kneel for social injustices any day of the week rather than stand for intolerance and bigotry," she tweeted.

Nike's campaign also features New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Shaquem Griffin, a rookie linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks whose left hand was amputated when he was a child.

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CNN's James Masters and Gianluca Mezzofiore contributed to this report.