Nike’s controversial ad featuring former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was released online Wednesday and aired Thursday before the start of the NFL season.
The spot, which celebrates 30 years of the brand’s “Just Do It” slogan, has been divisive. Some see it as a victory for Kaepernick’s protest against discrimination and police brutality. Others believe by featuring him, it’s disrespectful to veterans.
Back when the protest first began, Green Beret veteran and former Seahawk Nate Boyer met with Kaepernick and encouraged him to take a knee rather than sitting during the anthem as a means of respectful protest.
Kaepernick’s Take A Knee movement still became a divisive topic in the NFL.
Larry D. Dugger is the Washington state commander for the National Association for Black Veterans.
“We’re very proud of who we are as a people,” he said. “Proud of who we are as a nation and we’ve been granted the opportunity, given the right to be who we are and serve this country. Some years ago that wasn’t the case, and we had to go through a lot of hurt to get where we are today.”
Dugger served 22 years in the Marine Corps. Now he spends a lot of time supporting veterans.
“I’ve talked to veterans,” he said. “Some of them have different opinions, views and beliefs about what Mr. Kaepernick did. Some think it was disrespectful to the flag. Some don’t think it was disrespecting the flag.”
“I don’t see how it was a thing against the veterans, or how the veterans were disrespected,” he said. “I wasn’t disrespected. I stand for the flag and I kneel for Jesus. You kneel to pray. You kneel to propose to a woman. Him kneeling for the National Anthem doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is what are we going to do about why he kneeled.”
The advertising campaign led some to post pictures online cutting the logo off Nike socks, or burning sneakers. Dugger said he believes the veterans vs. Kaepernick framing is a false choice.
“To speak from the heart, I don’t fault Mr. Kaepernick,” he said. “I look at the root of the problem.”
“There’s not two sides,” he added. “There’s one side – injustice. That’s the side. Injustice.”
He believes people have a right to their opinions, but also believes there are problems in the U.S. worth addressing, and Kaepernick’s protest has called attention to it.
“The root of the matter is the injustice that has been perpetrated on a race of people and society that has every right to live,” he said. “And what has been done is wrong. The platform (Kaepernick) used to exercise his initial protest – people can agree or disagree, but look at everything else that goes on.”
“At the end of the day, every life matters,” he said. “And until we do this thing right, it’s still going to get messed up.”