Tag: nfl

Nike Nearly Dropped Colin Kaepernick Before Embracing Him

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Nearly a month after Colin Kaepernick was revealed as the face of Nike’s groundbreaking new advertising campaign, the unveiling videohas garnered more than 80 million views on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

The ads have sent Kaepernick into a new realm of celebrity, quickly becoming among the most talked-about and successful campaigns in recent years. And they have allowed Nike, which has a history of provocative marketing campaigns, to capitalize on the so-called Resistance movement in a way it only recently realized it could.

They are also yet another vehicle for Kaepernick to raise his own profile as a sort of civil rights entrepreneur unlike anyone before has, certainly in sports. He has signed deals to write a book — which is set to be published next year and will be accompanied by a speaking tour — and to develop a comedy series.

But it almost didn’t happen. In the summer of 2017, a debate raged in Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., over whether to cut loose the controversial, unemployed quarterback — and the company very nearly did, according to two individuals with knowledge of the discussions who requested anonymity because of nondisclosure agreements each has with Nike.

When the company did decide to embrace the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, it risked angering the National Football League, a Nike partner since 2012, but the company ultimately decided it was a risk worth taking, given the credibility the company would gain with the young, urban market it has long targeted.

Kaepernick ignited a national discourse in 2016 when he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games to protest racism, social inequality and police brutality. He left the 49ers after the 2016 season and became a free agent, but executives throughout the N.F.L. considered him radioactive because of his on-field protests, which drew vocal criticism from President Trump, and no team signed him.

That left Nike’s sports marketing group flummoxed. There seemed to be little they could do with a lightning-rod professional football player who was not playing football.

Before the company severed ties with Kaepernick, though, its top communications executive persuaded his colleagues to reverse course because of the potential for negative publicity. Kaepernick would remain on Nike’s roster of sponsored athletes — though he was largely ignored for nearly a year.

Through interviews with current and former Nike employees, individuals close to Kaepernick, analysts and others involved with the ad campaign, a picture emerged of Nike’s about-face in which the company concluded that getting behind Kaepernick’s crusade, at the urging of its longtime advertising firm, made good business sense despite the risk of angering the N.F.L.

When the company did decide to embrace the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, it risked angering the National Football League, a Nike partner since 2012, but the company ultimately decided it was a risk worth taking, given the credibility the company would gain with the young, urban market it has long targeted.

Kaepernick ignited a national discourse in 2016 when he began kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before games to protest racism, social inequality and police brutality. He left the 49ers after the 2016 season and became a free agent, but executives throughout the N.F.L. considered him radioactive because of his on-field protests, which drew vocal criticism from President Trump, and no team signed him.

That left Nike’s sports marketing group flummoxed. There seemed to be little they could do with a lightning-rod professional football player who was not playing football.

Before the company severed ties with Kaepernick, though, its top communications executive persuaded his colleagues to reverse course because of the potential for negative publicity. Kaepernick would remain on Nike’s roster of sponsored athletes — though he was largely ignored for nearly a year.

Through interviews with current and former Nike employees, individuals close to Kaepernick, analysts and others involved with the ad campaign, a picture emerged of Nike’s about-face in which the company concluded that getting behind Kaepernick’s crusade, at the urging of its longtime advertising firm, made good business sense despite the risk of angering the N.F.L.
READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/26/sports/nike-colin-kaepernick.html

Companies and brands often attempt to avoid taking strong public positions out of fear of alienating customers, but Nike is running straight into the political fray.

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Four days before a new NFL season gets underway, Nike is throwing its weight behind one of the most polarizing figures in football, and America: former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick will be one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary commemoration of its iconic “Just Do It” slogan. The campaign will also feature athletes such as Serena Williams, NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and Shaquem Griffin, a rookie linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks whose left hand was amputated when he was a child.

Kaepernick tweeted out a photo from the campaign on Monday. Over a black-and-white picture of his face, a caption reads, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

In backing Kaepernick, whom the company has sponsored since 2011, Nike is making a high-stakes gamble that its customers support his protest, or at least that enough of them do. The company is also betting its brand can withstand criticism from conservative corners, including the White House.

Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season. That year, he began kneeling during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality against African-Americans and other racial injustices. Dozens of other players also began joining Kaepernick, and he has grown into a symbol of dividing lines over race in America.

In 2017, he filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging the league conspired to keep him out because of his protests. An arbiter last week denied the NFL’s request to throw out the grievance, allowing the case to proceed to a trial.

The protests have divided the league, often pitting a conservative white owner base against the NFL’s mostly African-American players.

The owners voted in May to approve rules that would have required players to stand on the sideline during the anthem or or remain in the locker room. Teams would be fined if players did not stand during the anthem, and the rules allowed individual teams to set their own policies.

Those rules are on hold while the league and the players’ association negotiate.

Nike’s public support of Kaepernick also risks drawing the anger of President Donald Trump.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly seized on the issue. At a rally in Alabama last year, Trump said team owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field” if a player knelt in protest of injustice during the anthem. Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game after some players knelt.

“This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” Trump told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones last year, according to a sworn deposition Jones gave in connection with Kaepernick’s lawsuit.

Nike declined to comment on whether it expected Trump to criticize the company or how it would respond if he did.

The company also drew fire from Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis, who called the Kaepernick campaign “pathetic,” and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who tweeted, “I guess @Nike will now focus on making knee pads for NFL.”

But many users voiced support for the brand’s decision and mocked people who claimed to be destroying their Nike products in protest, suggesting they should donate them to charity instead.

Williams said she was “especially proud to be a part of the Nike family today.”

Outspoken sports journalist Jemele Hill argued that people shouldn’t be surprised by Nike’s decision based on its history.

“Nike became Nike because it was built on the idea of rebellion,” she wrote. “This is the same company that dealt w/ the NBA banning Air Jordans. They made [Michael] Jordan the face of the company at a time when black men were considered to be a huge risk as pitch men. They aren’t new to this.”

Colin Kaepernick’s N.F.L. Collusion Case Can Continue, Arbitrator Rules

In a major blow to the N.F.L., Colin Kaepernick achieved a preliminary but important win in his case accusing the league of colluding to keep him off the field because of the player protests during the national anthem that he instigated.

The ruling, essentially granting a full hearing on the dispute, keeps alive a case that the N.F.L. desperately wanted to go away. The league is preparing for a new season beginning next week and is still grappling with how to defuse the smoldering debate over players who demonstrate during the national anthem to protest racism, police brutality and social injustice.

In a ruling this week that was disclosed Thursday, the arbitrator, Stephen B. Burbank, who was appointed by the league and the N.F.L. Players Association, said lawyers for Kaepernick had unearthed enough information in the past year for the case to proceed to a full hearing. After months of depositions — including those given by some of the most powerful owners in the league — as well as document searches, the lawyers will be able to question league officials, owners and others in a trial-like format.

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The decision was revealed by Mark Geragos, Kaepernick’s lawyer.

Although the number of players who kneel has varied — and dwindled over the course of last season — since Kaepernick first did so in 2016, during a wave of police shootings of African-American men, the issue continues to divide fans, vex owners. It has also inspired persistent tweets from President Trump, whose calls for players who kneel to be fired has put pressure on owners, many of whom support him.

Kaepernick, once one of the league’s best quarterbacks, has been out of work since March 2017, when he became a free agent before the San Francisco 49ers could release him. As a parade of lesser quarterbacks, at least statistically, found work, he filed a grievance asserting that the league’s owners had conspired to keep him out because of his protests.

The N.F.L., which had asked the arbitrator to dismiss the case for lack of evidence, declined to comment. It cannot appeal the arbitrator’s decision to move to a full hearing, but it can appeal a final ruling.

A hearing could begin by the end of the year, though the two sides could settle the case before then. Kaepernick is seeking damages equal to what he would have earned if he were still playing in the league.

The case has attracted so much attention, experts said, that it would have been difficult for Burbank to dismiss it.

NFL players kneel, raise fists or sit out National Anthem

(CNN)Several NFL players took a knee, raised fists or did not take to the field while the National Anthem was played Thursday night before preseason games.

The actions came weeks after the league shelved its new policy regarding conduct surrounding the anthem until it reaches an agreement with the NFL Players Association.
The Miami Herald reported that Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, along with wide receiver Albert Wilson, knelt during the anthem before a home game against Tampa Bay.

WTVJ Miami reported that Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn raised his fist during the song.
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The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett walked out of the tunnel during the playing of the anthem and headed to the team bench. The Daily News said Eagles captain Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback De’Vante Bausby raised their fists.
Several Jacksonville Jaguars players were not on the field for the playing of the anthem before their preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, according to The Florida Times Union. The players included Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon.
During the NFL Network’s television coverage of the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants game, 10 Giants were seen kneeling in unison in an end zone before the National Anthem was played.
A dozen games were played Thursday night. It was not immediately clear how many saw signs of protest.
The anthem controversy has been rumbling since 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.
Kaepernick tweeted Thursday night, lauding the action of two players who protested.
The debate ratcheted up a notch in 2017 when US President Donald Trump said kneeling players showed “total disrespect for our great country.”
After withstanding two seasons of backlash against players kneeling, raising fists and displaying other means of protest during the anthem, the NFL said it would fine teams with protesting players directly, who in turn would have it in their discretion to enforce pregame anthem observations in their own ways.
After confusion, the NFL decided to take its new policy back to the drawing board and consult with the players association.
“The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue,” read the joint statement. “In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy.”

4 wide receivers destined to surprise in fantasy football

fantasy sleepersWide receiver may be the deepest position in all of fantasy football. Though there are many many quality options you’ll still want to know who is set up to surprise and who is set up to stun. The four players below are all currently outside the top 30 wide receivers according to average draft position. These four are also talented players who happen to be in situations where their production can take a giant step forward.

Corey DavisTennessee Titans

Hitting on a rookie wide receiver is extremely difficult. Davis likely found himself on sleeper lists this time last year, but injuries cost him valuable game time, and he never eclipsed 100 yards receiving nor did he find the end zone in 2017.

So what has changed? For starters, the Titans brought in Matt LaFleur to overhaul the offense. If he brings some of that magic that helped the Los Angeles Rams this entire offense could take a giant leap forward. LaFleur has coached under both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. Two current head coaches known for innovation and getting the most out of their quarterbacks. Tennessee also did next to nothing to beef up their receiving corps. Rishard Matthews is a fantasy asset, but Davis is the better talent and should be the Titan’s premiere weapon through the air. Taywan Taylor is an interesting late-round pick, but a risky play. With a fully healthy offseason and an improved situation, look for Davis to breakout and possibly finish in the top 30 at his position.

John RossCincinnati Bengals

John Ross is more of a deep sleeper (currently going undrafted). Ross was one of the most hyped rookies last year, but injuries limited him to two games with no receptions. The 2018 season figures to be a much more productive year for the speedster and perhaps one where he becomes a weekly fantasy play.

The Bengals’ passing attack is still pretty much just A.J. Green. Brandon LaFell is a 31 year-old wide-out with talent, but there’s nothing special about his game. Tyler Boyd is entering his third year, scattering 73 receptions and three touchdowns across 28 games. Cincinnati needs a legit threat at receiver opposite of Green. Ross does have elite speed, but his route tree is diverse and he can be used more as an offensive weapon (a la Tyreek Hill). Should Ross take advantage of his opportunities you could have a WR3 with phenomenal upside for the price of the final pick in the draft.

Mike WilliamsLos Angeles Chargers

One of the best ways to find a sleeper in fantasy football is to investigate the best offenses (or who we think are the best offenses) and look at changing roles or suddenly available targets. Hunter Henry’s injury not only opens the door for an Antonio Gates revival, but also a Mike Williams breakout.

Williams’ rookie season was easy to miss. Injuries kept him off the field and when he was healthy enough to play he wasn’t effective. The former 1st round pick now has an opportunity to go through a full training camp and his main competition is Tyrell Williams, a solid if unspectacular talent who has struggled with consistency. Mike Williams’ currently going as WR50, but he has the tools and situation to finish in the top 30 at his position if he can put it together on the field this season.

Marquise GoodwinSan Francisco 49ers

It’s easy to fall in love with speed, but versatility is what keeps you on the field. Goodwin’s speed has never been an issue. Like many speed merchants he is often written off as a one-trick pony, but Goodwin showed some depth in his game last season.

The arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo should raise all boats in the Bay. Pierre Garçon is still around, but he missed Garoppolo’s run due to injury — a time where Goodwin built valuable chemistry with the new starting quarterback, topping 90 receiving yards three times in the final five weeks. Kyle Shanahan now has a QB that can execute his offense and he obviously likes Goodwin’s talent. Goodwin just needs to stay healthy to take advantage of an improved offense.

Richard Sherman Writes About Why It Was Wrong for the Eagles to Release DeSean Jackson

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Even though DeSean Jackson signed a new deal with the Washington Redskins last night,Richard Sherman is not ready to move on and forget the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles released him late last week because of his alleged “gang ties.” Early this morning, Sherman published a new column for The MMQB that offers his take on the Eagles parting ways with D-Jax. And because the Seattle Seahawks cornerback actually grew up with the speedy wide receiver and understands what it’s like to grow up in a rough neighborhood, he was able to offer a pretty unique perspective on why the Eagles shouldn’t have cut Jackson.

“I look at those words—gang ties—and I think about all the players I’ve met in the NFL and all of us who come from inner-city neighborhoods like mine in Los Angeles, and I wonder how many of us could honestly say we’re not friends with guys doing the wrong things,” he writes. “I can’t.”

Sherman also says that if Jackson had been playing for, say, the Seahawks instead of the Eagles, he wouldn’t have been released last week because of his “gang ties.”

“Sorry, but I was born in this dirt,” he writes. “NFL teams understand that. The Seattle Seahawks get it. The Philadelphia Eagles apparently do not.”

To read what else Sherman had to say, go here. Now that Jackson is with a new team, the whole “Is DeSean Jackson really in a gang?!” story is likely going to fade. But it’s important to hear what a guy like Sherman has to say about it. Because it won’t be the last time that a pro athlete is accused of having ties to a gang.

RELATED: Twitter Can’t Believe the Eagles Signed Riley Cooper to a New Contract This Offseason But Released DeSean Jackson Today

NFL Releases Report Detailing Richie Incognitos Racist Homophobic Abuse

Well it looks as though the last shoe has dropped in the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin locker room saga.  A few weeks ago, text messages were released that detailed the strange relationship between Incognito and Martin. From mutual name calling, to talks of prostitutes and drugs, it would seem that Martin and his teammate were just friends going at each other.  But apparently those texts were only the tip of the iceberg and a small part of a bigger issue.Image

Martin repeatedly complained to his parents about the harassment he was receiving from not only Incognito, but also from his other offensive linemen teammates, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry, both of whom are black.  The taunting involved everything from homophobic slurs, to being called the “n” word as well as other racial epithets.  After the NFL report was released, Incognito couldn’t take the pressure of being taunted via Twitter, basically getting a taste of his own medicine, and deleted his account.