Days before the 2018 NFL season began, Nike (NKE) and former NFL star Colin Kaepernick teamed up on a controversial ad campaign that urged people, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
More than two years later, Kaepernick and Nike are teaming up again, but this time on a sneaker dubbed Air Force 1 x Colin Kaepernick. The shoe released at 10 AM and sold out in minutes.
During the 2017 NFL season, then 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his teammate Eric Reid began kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racial discrimination. The gesture would spread to players on teams across the NFL. It was the beginning of the “Kneeling controversy” that even involved President Trump, who criticized the players for “disrespecting” the country.
The first time Nike and the former NFL star teamed up was controversial. Thousands flooded social media with their thoughts. Some even burned Nike products in protest to the Swoosh brand partnering with the man who spearheaded the NFL kneeling movement.
However, some sneaker industry experts believe this isn’t necessarily a bad move by Nike.
“The Kaepernick detractors are likely not Nike customers, so I see little risk,” Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor at NPD Group, tells Yahoo Finance. He also notes that the shoe is a limited release that he expects will sell out quickly.
The sneaker, which has garnered the nickname “True to 7,” is a version of one of Nike’s most popular shoes of all time, the Air Force 1. The shoe features a luxe black leather upper, which is accented by a reflective Swoosh. The low top sneaker also sports high-touch accents in white and black.
The shoe also includes a portrait of Kaepernick embroidered on the heel and his logo on the tongue. A patterned sock liner and a number seven hangtag round out the shoe, which released Dec. 23 in North America at Nike stores, select retailers, and the SNKRS app. Air Force 1 x Colin Kaepernick will initially have a limited release with a global launch to follow at a later date.
It has been some time since Nike has publicly teamed up with Kaepernick. The last time was back in July when the former NFL star urged Nike to pull the release of a 4th of July sneaker featuring the “Betsy Ross Flag.” Kaepernick believed that Nike shouldn’t sell a shoe that depicts the revolutionary flag of the 1770s because it harkens back to a time when slavery existed in the U.S. Nike obliged the former 49er and another controversy unfolded.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) asked the state’s commerce authority to pull financial incentives for a Nike factory in the state after the company decided not to release the shoe.
Controversy always seems to follow when Nike and Kaepernick team up, but it never seems to cause a lasting problem for the Swoosh brand. Although there has been initial fury from some, Nike has come out of every spat financially stronger with the company solidly beating expectations again and again and recording record revenues in the process.
But could the third time be the unlucky charm for the Nike-Kaepernick partnership? The company is now giving the controversial former QB a sneaker in his honor that features his likeness on the heel.
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.