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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

Nike's embrace of Colin Kaepernick has Jerry Falwell Jr. rethinking Liberty University's contract with the company, which has signed on to supply the Flames with athletic gear until 2024.

Nike recently inked the former NFL quarterback for an ad campaign. Kaepernick has been out of the NFL since 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against minorities. He also wore socks in practice depicting police officers as pigs.

Falwell said it's that disrespect that concerns him about Nike's alignment with Kaepernick, and he wants to find out where the athletic retailer stands on the issues.

"If the company really has animus toward police officers, or if they're intentionally disrespecting our flag, our veterans, our national anthem, as part of some mission of the company and using their resources to do it, then why deal with them when there are plenty of other good athletic companies out there? On the other hand, if they are just trying to make money off the attention that former quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been receiving, then we understand that that's just marketing and we'll probably overlook it," Falwell said.

He added he has not yet spoken with Liberty's legal department or Nike about the matter. Falwell said he plans to inquire about contract termination clauses, and the athletic department will contact Nike to see "what they are trying to accomplish" through the ad campaign.

If the deal is airtight, Liberty will likely have to continue with the contract, he said.

Nike representatives have not yet replied to a request for comment.

Nike struck a nerve with conservatives Tuesday when it debuted an ad featuring Kaepernick's image with the inscription: "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything," a likely reference to his inability to find a roster spot after his protests.

Social media has lit up with videos of flaming Nikes as conservatives voiced their disapproval. Fox News Host Sean Hannity and other commentators have taken the company to task for the move, and President Donald Trump weighed in, tweeting: "What was Nike thinking?"

If Liberty drops Nike, it won't be the first college to do so. College of the Ozarks, a Christian college in Missouri, announced Wednesday that it planned to remove all Nike uniforms or athletic apparel due to the company's new ad campaign, which features Kaepernick.

"In their new ad campaign, we believe Nike executives are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America," College of the Ozarks President Jerry Davis said in a news release announcing the school's split with the athletic apparel retailer. "If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them. We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform."

According to the Flames website, LU has had a long-term contract with Nike since 2009.

"We are honored and blessed to partner with Nike as our athletics footwear and apparel provider for the next seven years," said Liberty Director of Athletics Ian McCaw in a 2017 news release announcing the contract extension through 2024. "This agreement provides significant financial resources to serve our student-athletes and programs by providing the finest equipment and apparel from the leading and most recognized brand in college athletics."

While Falwell isn't pleased with Kaepernick's inclusion in Nike's marketing campaign, he seems indifferent to its product, noting that he doesn't typically pay attention to brand names.

"I might have a pair in the closet, I don't know," Falwell said.

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