The Rev. Mack Morris took a hold of an old Nike headband and a wristband, held them both up before a packed church, and cut them.
“I ain’t using that no more,” said Morris, the senior pastor at Woodridge Baptist Church in west Mobile during his weekly Sunday sermon.
“I’ve bought my last pair of Nike shoes,” Morris said.
The reason? Morris, during a sermon titled “The Storms of Life,” said it was in protest to the Oregon-based apparel company’s recent advertising campaign centered around Colin Kaepernick, the professional football player who was the first athlete to take a knee during the national anthem that triggered a firestorm of controversy that exists to this day.
Kaepernick’s protest centered around concerns about police behavior and racial injustices in America.
“He’s inked a contract with Nike,” Morris said during his sermon. “No one knows or is telling how many multi-million dollars that is going to be simply because he won’t stand when the national anthem is sung.”
Morris continued, “America may not be the best country in the world and we have a lot of faults, but I tell you what, a lot of folks died for the sake of what the flag represents.”
Morris received a standing applause.
“I know there are a lot of people, in general, who are very upset,” Morris said on Monday during an interview with AL.com. “I know there are a number of high schools and colleges who are dropping Nike. Some folks are tied into long-term contracts, so I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this. It’s a ground swell. I think Nike, personally, made a calculated decision.”
Morris’s sermon represents the latest in a growing number of Christian groups and public officials who are coming out in opposition of Nike for its use of Kaepernick to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the company’s slogan, “Just Do it.”
In Missouri, the College of the Ozark, last week ditched its athletic uniforms – emblazoned with the Nike’s famous swoosh emblem – in favor of newer uniforms that did not include the company’s image. The private Christian school has about 1,500 students, and its president said in a statement that he believed Nike was “promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America.”
The mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, in a Sept. 5 memo, banned the purchase of any Nike products at the city’s booster clubs and recreation departments.
Among the most notable Nike opponents is Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and a close ally of President Donald Trump, who said last week that his school was reconsidering its relationship with the apparel company. According to USA Today, the company has a contract with Liberty’s athletic teams through 2024.
Trump has been a leading opponent of Kaepernick, an NFL free agent for the past two seasons, and the current players who opt not to stand during the national anthem. The president first leaped into the cultural battle over the national anthem during a campaign speech almost one year ago while stumping for former U.S. Senator Luther Strange of Alabama during a campaign stop in Huntsville.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say … He’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump said during the Sept. 22, 2017, speech that prompted a flurry of reactions and protests by NFL players.
It’s unclear if any other Baptist ministers spoke out publicly against Nike this past weekend.
Roger “Sing” Oldham, spokesman with The Southern Baptist Convention, the organization has “no mechanism to gauge pastors’ collective or individual opinions on developing news stories throughout the year.”
But despite some protests against Nike, the company’s use of Kaepernick has been described as a “stroke of genius” by others. Nike, for instance, has seen a more than 20 percent bump in online orders in the days since the advertising became public.
“This premeditated move was another subtle but significant sign of Nike’s strength and confidence in its position in the marketplace, one that likely does more good than harm,” said the Wall Street analyst Camilo Lyon of Canaccord Genuity in a letter to clients.
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