With Kaepernick, Nike took a risk, but a safely calculated one: he was just edgy enough to seem countercultural, but mainstream enough to suit their bottom line. In the current anti-Trump climate, he was about as safe a bet as you could make.
The decision to sign Kaepernick obviously had nothing to do with his sporting profile. He has not played in the NFL since 2016, as he has been unable to find a new team. And yet he was given a contract with Nike that was said to be on par with top-end NFL players.
Kanter, on the other hand, is in the prime of his sporting career, making millions pursuing his passion. What’s more, his decision to put everything on the line to continue speaking out against the Turkish regime, which has detained over 170,000 of his fellow citizens in recent years, showed precisely the kind of bravery Nike is claiming to champion.
While the trend for using social-justice issues to promote products is nothing new, there has certainly been a wave recently of preachy politically charged commercials. In this age of virtue-signalling, companies are trying to imbue their products with a sense of moral superiority. But Kanter’s story shows that campaigns like Kaepernick’s have nothing to do with principle.
Nike's politics are like their shoes - flashy, with little substance and no support.