By: Irina Ivanova | CBS News
September 5, 2018
President Donald Trump on Wednesday weighed in on Nike's latest advertising campaign, blasting the sportswear company and the NFL in a single tweet.
"Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts," he said on Twitter.
Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
The tweet came a day after Nike unveiled a marketing campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback known for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Kaepernick, now an unsigned free agent, is suing the NFL, alleging team owners are colluding to prevent him from signing with another team.
It's the second time in two days that Mr. Trump criticized Nike. On Tuesday, he told conservative news outlet The Daily Caller he disagreed with the sports giant's endorsement deal with Kaepernick, saying, "I think it's a terrible message." He added, however, that "it is what this country is all about, you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn't do," including things he personally disapproves of. The president has been a vocal critic of players who kneel during the anthem, referring to them using slurs and calling for their firing.
Nike is no stranger to controversy. The company launched a high-profile "Equality" campaign shortly after Mr. Trump's inauguration, featuring LeBron James, Serena Williams and Ibtihaj Muhammad, an American fencer who wears a hijab when competing, as well as transgender triathlete Chris Mosier.
"Even in the face of potential backlash, [Nike] supports their athlete partners, and that's an incredibly powerful statement to the athlete community," said Brian Gordon, CEO of sports marketing agency Engine Shop.
The company's stock has risen 28 percent this year, although it dipped slightly on Tuesday in the wake of the ad campaign controversy.
In that regard, Nike has been better able to weather the controversy than the NFL. Over the last two seasons, TV ratings for NFL games have sunk 8 percent and 10 percent, respectively, the largest drops in over 15 years, according to UBS. About half of those who stopped watching NFL games cite the protests as a reason, the investment bank said in a recent report.
The league tried to mandate that players stand for the anthem earlier this year, but was unable to impose the policy on players.