Colin Kaepernick leads Nike's 30th anniversary 'Just Do It' ad campaign

Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the U.S. national anthem in 2016 to protest racial injustice, is leading Nike’s ad campaign despite entering a second National Football League season without being on a team roster.

Image shows quarterback's face with words 'Believe in something. Even it if it means sacrificing everything'

Former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick leads Nike's 30th-anniversary "Just Do It" ad campaign. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press)

Colin Kaepernick has a new deal with Nike, even without having a job in the NFL.

Kaepernick's attorney, Mark Geragos, made the announcement on Twitter, calling the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback an "All American Icon" and crediting attorney Ben Meiselas for getting the deal done. Kaepernick also posted a Nike ad featuring his face and wrote: "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. [Hashtag] JustDoIt"

According to ESPN, Nike has kept paying Kaepernick — who signed with the brand in 2011 — despite not using him in ads over the past two years. The company said it planned to bring him back at the right time.

"We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward," Nike V.P. of brand in North America Gino Fisanotti told ESPN.

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. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Nike hasn't officially announced the contract.

The source says Nike will feature Kaepernick on several platforms, including billboards, television commercials and online ads. Nike also will create an apparel line for Kaepernick and contribute to his Know Your Rights charity. The deal puts Kaepernick in the top bracket of NFL players with Nike.

The NFL and Nike extended their partnership in March to run through 2028. Nike provides all NFL teams with game-day uniforms and sideline apparel that bears the swoosh logo.

Legal victory

Last week, Kaepernick scored a legal victory in his grievance against the NFL and its 32 teams when an arbitrator denied 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.

Kaepernick contends 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.

On Friday night, Kaepernick and Reid, also now out of the league, were each given huge ovations when they were introduced and shown on the big screen during a match between Serena and Venus Williams at the U.S. Open.

Kaepernick began a wave of protests by NFL players two seasons ago, kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. The protests have grown into one of the most polarizing issues in sports, with President Donald Trump loudly urging the league to suspend or fire players who demonstrate during the anthem.

Meanwhile, the league and players union still haven't resolved whether players will be punished this season if they choose to kneel or demonstrate during the national anthem. Owners approved a policy requiring players to stand if they are on the sideline during "The Star-Spangled Banner," allowing them to stay off the field if they wish.

But the league and union put that on hold after the Miami Dolphins faced backlash for classifying the protests as conduct potentially detrimental to the team — putting players at risk of fines or suspensions.

Nike's campaign also includes ads featuring Serena Williams, Odell Beckham Jr. and Seattle Seahawks rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who plays professional football despite missing one hand due to complications from amniotic band syndrome as a child.

"We wanted to energize its meaning and introduce 'Just Do It' to a new generation of athletes," Fisanotti told ESPN.

With files from Field Level Media

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