Here’s Why Nike Founder Phil Knight Approved the Colin Kaepernick ‘Just Do It’ Ad

During a recent “View From the Top” discussion, Stanford Graduate School of Business’ student-led interview series, Nike founder Phil Knight explained how and why he approved the company’s Colin Kaepernick “Just Do It” ad.

According to a Stanford Business story from February republished by Fast Company today, Knight said there was some doubt within Nike after seeing the Kaepernick “Just Do It” 30th anniversary TV ad. But he ultimately gave it his approval after recalling a conversation he had weeks earlier with NBA star LeBron James.

According to the report, Knight and James discussed worrying about their grandsons and son, respectively, getting drivers licenses. But what they were worried about was vastly different.

The report stated James shared with Knight his fear of his son, a young African-American man, getting shot by a police officer. “I thought of the top hundred worries I have, and that doesn’t make my list. That was a real eye-opener,” Knight said during the “View From The Top” discussion.

Also during the interview, the report states, Knight said he wasn’t concerned with the backlash the ad would undoubtedly produce. “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it. And as long as you have that attitude, you can’t be afraid of offending people,” Knight said. “You can’t try and go down the middle of the road. You have to take a stand on something, which is ultimately I think why the Kaepernick ad worked.”

Kaepernick unveiled his Nike “Just Do It” ad on Sept. 3 via social media, and the brand revealed its “Dream Crazy” video narrated by the quarterback two days later. The Swoosh aired the short film during the NFL season opener Sept. 6 between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

The ad was celebrated by several athletes including James, former NFL star wide receiver Victor Cruz and rapper Fabolous. It was also criticized by media members such as Jason Whitlock and Clay Travis.

After the ad was revealed, social media analysis firm Talkwalker said Nike was mentioned on social media more than 5.2 million times within 72 hours of its release.

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