Colin Kaepernick will be back on television this football season.
The quarterback who inspired the NFL player protest movement stars in a new commercial for Nike, which this week made him a face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign.
Nike says the ad will air this week during the US Open, Major League Baseball games and college football — as well as Thursday night’s NFL opener between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s an awkward juxtaposition for the league. The NFL is still grappling with the firestorm that Kaepernick started two years ago when he sat and later knelt during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
The backlash returned this week after Nike announced the ad campaign. People threatened a boycott on social media, and the company’s stock fell almost 3%.
President Donald Trump took another swipe in a tweet Wednesday that claimed Nike was “getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts.”
The TV campaign, called “Dream Crazy,” shows Nike is ready to go even bigger with Kaepernick.
Jay Rosenstein, a former CBS Sports executive and an adjunct professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Sports Management, said he’s not surprised by what Nike is doing. Boldness has long been part of the brand.
“This is what Nike does,” he said. “This is what they love to do.”
Rosenstein also said he didn’t expect the ad to make or break a viewer’s decision to tune in this fall. Although some critics have blamed last year’s flagging NFL ratings on the protests, Rosenstein pointed to high-profile player injuries and weak matchups.
Nike said a 90-second version of the ad will air mostly on TV. A 30-second version will also include Kaepernick.
The quarterback posted a two-minute version on Twitter, in which his voice is heard over images of other prominent athletes, including LeBron James and Serena Williams. He implores the listener: “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough.”
The version posted to Twitter touches on the protests. At one point, Kaepernick appears on camera, and his voice reads a slogan he and Nike have been promoting this week: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season. He’s suing the league, alleging he was blacklisted because of the protests.
NFL owners voted earlier this year to require that players either stand during the Anthem or wait in the locker room. That policy also says teams will be fined if players are on the field and “do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”
Those rules are on hold while the league and the players union negotiate.
The NFL did not respond to a request for comment about the commercial. Earlier this week, the league said in a statement that it “believes in dialogue, understanding and unity.”