Colin Kaepernick is out of the NFL but he is more powerful than ever

Far from being forced to the sidelines of national debate since leaving the 49ers, the quarterback’s Nike campaign shows his voice cannot be ignored

By Bryan Armen Graham | The Guardian | 08/04/2018


More than 20 months have passed since Colin Kaepernick played in an NFL game, but the most famous unemployed man in America continues to cast an outsized shadow over the country’s richest sports league and the culture at large. That influence was given mainstream corporate backing on Monday when Nike confirmed that Kaepernick would be the face of a new ad campaign for the 30th anniversary of their ‘Just Do It’ slogan.

The big reveal ahead of the NFL’s regular-season opener on Thursday night came as more of a surprise than it should have, given the lengthy track record of the sports apparel company, which has been out in front of social trends for decades. Nike put money behind prominent African American coaches like Georgetown’s John Thompson before doing so was popular. They made a black teenager the face of their company when Tiger Woods turned professional with the provocative Hello World campaign that sparked controversy (and, lest we forget, even boycotts) by leaning into America’s thorny racist past.

They made Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon character the face of an Air Jordan campaign, throwing their support behind a 30-year-old black filmmaker who challenged America to wake up with desperate urgency, showing us the right thing isn’t always the easy thing. Now three decades on, they’ve aligned themselves with a 30-year-old black quarterback who’s done the same thing with his silent protest agains