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EDITORIAL: Just doing it

York Dispatch

Just do it.

For 30 years, Nike has encouraged everyone from professional athletes to small children to get out and improve their abilities.

And it's worked so well that the swoosh is everywhere, from shoes to hats. Through the years, millions of athletes and people who just want to look like one have sported the Nike brand in every competition and on nearly every street in the world.

This image taken from the Twitter account of the former National Football League player Colin Kaepernick shows a Nike advertisement featuring him that was posted Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. Kaepernick already had a deal with Nike that was set to expire, but it was renegotiated into a multi-year deal to make him one of the faces of Nike's 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign, according to a person familiar with the contract. (Twitter via AP)

Nike has never shied away from controversy. It never had to. Its branding is so strong and so pervasive the company can use it as a platform for a bigger message.

So the newest Nike ads featuring Colin Kaepernick shouldn't really surprise anyone.

In print ads and billboards, former 49ers quarterback Kaepernick says, "Believe in something. Even if is means sacrificing everything."

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More:EDITORIAL: NFL protests are about justice, not the anthem

In 2016, he was the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem at games to protest police brutality and the killing of unarmed African-Americans.

And that activism has cost Kaepernick.

In March 2017, he became a free agent, and he hasn't played in a professional football game since then.

He's suing the NFL, saying the owners violated their collective bargaining agreement with players by conspiring to keep him off teams. His case hinges on whether owners worked together rather than decided individually to not sign Kaepernick.

A similar grievance is still pending by former 49ers teammate Eric Reid, a Pro Bowl safety who joined in the protests.

The backlash against the protests by players has made waves across the country, and the fervor has been stoked by the White House.

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2016 file photo, from left, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. An arbitrator is sending Kaepernick's grievance with the NFL to trial, denying the league's request to throw out the quarterback's claims that owners conspired to keep him out of the league because of his protests of social injustice. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Nike knew all of that, and it made Kaepernick prominent in its ads celebrating the 30th anniversary of its "Just do it" slogan.

And now the section of the country who says kneeling players are disrespecting the anthem and the flag is turning against the company.

All over social media, people are posting pictures of themselves cutting the Nike swoosh off of their socks, off of clothing, off of hats. Stores in some areas are liquidating their Nike merchandise. People are burning their Nike shoes.

Of course, since people are destroying merchandise they already own, it's kind of hard to see how that's supposed to hurt the company.

This form of protest seems to run along the same lines as when people destroyed their NFL season tickets in 2017. Or when they protested Starbucks' holiday cups in 2015 by ordering at Starbucks and telling the barista their name was Merry Christmas, so the barista would write Merry Christmas on the otherwise plain red cup. 

Note for future protests: If you're buying merchandise to protest the company that's selling it, the company is still making money.

Yes, Nike, is feeling some backlash over the Kaepernick ads. The company's stock fell 3 percent on Tuesday, Sept. 4, the day after the print ad was released, but it recovered almost 1 percent the next day.

And the news value of the story has brought in media coverage worth as much as $43 million, according to CNBC.

Will the good will in some communities outweigh the ill will in others? More time will have to pass to see. 

But Nike has made it clear that it stands on the side of the NFL players asserting their First Amendment rights to peacefully protest by kneeling during the national anthem.

For a global company to take that stand, in this highly inflamed political climate, takes guts.

The company that tells every athlete and aspiring athlete to get out and push themselves every day is taking its own advice and standing up for the athletes it has helped grow over the decades.

Nike is just doing it.