Even those who live in Georgia may not have heard of Truett McConnell University, but this week, the private Southern Baptist college in Cleveland, Georgia, joined the national response of some to Nike’s ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.
Emir Caner, the president of Truett McConnell, announced Friday that the university would cut ties with the global apparel company, which supplies university T-shirts and other goods to the campus bookstore.
Caner, who took over at Truett McConnell in 2008, is a former Muslim and well-known in conservative religious circles as a defender of Christianity.
“America has sacrificially given my family the freedoms we enjoy today,” Caner said in a statement Friday. “My wife, who was raised under the oppression of socialistic communism, became a citizen five years ago, joyfully pledging allegiance to these United States and her flag.
“For Nike to then hire Colin Kaepernick, a person known for wearing pigs on his socks, mocking law enforcement, kneeling against our flag and mocking our troops, is reprehensible to my family and to the Truett McConnell family.”
Caner did not returns calls from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for comment on this story.
The Nike ban will primarily impact the campus book store, where between $10,000 and $20,000 worth of Nike-branded school T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts are sold annually.
Nike’s new Kaepernick ad, which debuted on TV last week and has been posted on billboards around the country, shows the former Super Bowl quarterback with the words, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
On the day after the company announced that Kaepernick would be the face of the “Just Do It,” campaign, Nike lost $4 billion in market value. But by Monday afternoon, stock prices were up 2 percent and the company was trading at $81.80, returning to pre-Kaepernick levels. Online sales increased by 31 percent Sunday through Tuesday last week.
Following the ad’s release, Springfield News-Leader reported that another small school, College of the Ozarks, in Point Lookout, Missouri, also banned Nike. At a weekend women’s volleyball match, the team wore plain gray T-shirts with the school’s name printed on the back.
President Donald Trump, who has been a vocal opponent of Kaepernick and the fact that NFL players have been kneeling, tweeted his opposition to Nike.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and a close ally of Trump, told USA Today Sports Friday that the Kaepernick decision might cause the college to reconsider its relationship with Nike.
“If Nike really does believe that law enforcement in this country is unfair and biased, I think we will look around,” Falwell said. “If we have a contract, we’ll honor it, but we strongly support law enforcement and strongly support our military and veterans who died to protect our freedoms and if the company really believes what Colin Kaepernick believes, it’s going to be hard for us to keep doing business with them.”
Last year, Fallwell signed a lengthy deal with Nike through 2024.
Kenner, Louisiana, Mayor Ben Zahn III issued a Sept. 5 memo banning the purchase and use of any Nike products at the city’s booster clubs and recreation departments.
In a statement released Monday, Zahn said the ban would protect the city's taxpayers from promoting Nike’s political agenda.
“My internal memo draws the line on letting companies profit from taxpayers by espousing political beliefs. My decision disallowing Nike from profiting from our taxpayers while they are using their powerful voice as a political tool is my message,” Zahn said. “This government will not let taxpayer dollars be used to promote a company’s or individual’s political position, platform or principle,” the statement said. “That's my position as a matter of fairness to all.”
Caner said that although students will still be allowed to wear Nike on campus, all of the profits from the remaining Nike gear sold in the campus store will be donated to Wounded Warriors and the Fraternal Order of Police.
“If Nike chooses to apologize to our troops and to our law enforcement officers, then -- and only then -- will TMU reconsider their brand,” Caner said. “In the meanwhile, let us honor true heroes, those who protect us daily, some even sacrificing their own lives. They are the true heroes.”