Study finds stark racial divides in attitudes about Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advertisement

Non-Black college students are significantly more likely to oppose Nike’s advertising campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose kneeling protests during the US anthem sparked a firestorm of controversy, according to new research published in Deviant Behavior.

“My colleagues and I had previously published work on NFL anthem protests and observed deep racial divides in attitudes in favor (and against) such protests,” said study author Alex R. Piquero, an Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“As Colin Kaepernick was at the fore of that debate and since the Nike ad had just come out when we completed that first study, we wanted to extent that line of work to see if people approved of the Nike ad campaign.”

For their study, the researchers surveyed 297 young adults attending a large Midwestern university in Fall 2018.

They found that Black students were more likely than non-Black students to believe that Nike should use Kaepernick in their advertisements, that Nike should address social issues through advertisements, and that Nike should contribute to Kaepernick’s charity Know Your Rights.

“There remain significant racial divides in how people see professional athletes taking up social causes and the extent to which companies should support those athletes and, indirectly, their causes,” Piquero told PsyPost.

“At almost a ratio of 2:1, blacks were more likely to agree with Nike’s decision to use the former player in their advertisement, that Nike should address social issues in their ads, and that Nike should contribute to his charity. We observed similar divides in our prior work regarding race differences in NFL anthem protests and whether the League should punish protesting players.”

Students who were politically conservative and those who disagreed with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for top positions, also tended to oppose Nike using Kaepernick in their ads.

“There remain deep racial schisms in American society when it comes to what athletes should do and what they should not do which raises more general question about the extent and level of covert discrimination in American society,” Piquero said.

The study controlled for a number of potentially confounding variables, such as age, income levels, political orientation, and time spent watching football. But like all research, the study includes some limitations.

“The major caveat is that we had a sample of college students. The extent to which our findings hold in larger samples of different ages and experiences remains unknown,” Piquero explained.

The study, “Just Do It? An Examination of Race on Attitudes Associated with Nike’s Advertisement Featuring Colin Kaepernick”, was authored by Jonathan Intravia, Alex R. Piquero, Nicole Leeper Piquero, and Bryan Byers.