The women’s volleyball team at the College of the Ozarks wore gray T-shirts instead of their traditional Nike jerseys after the school dropped its Nike uniforms in protest of Nike’s signing of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick as the face of its new ad campaign.
Kaepernick was an NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. In 2016, he began taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before football games in protest against what he decried as racial injustice. His protest inspired backlash from some NFL fans, who saw his kneeling as disrespect to the flag, law enforcement and the military. A free agent in 2017, Kaepernick wasn’t signed by any of the NFL’s 32 franchises, and he later filed a collusion lawsuit alleging that NFL owners were working together to blacklist him from the league. That legal battle is still ongoing.
More recently, Nike chose Kaepernick as the face of its new advertising campaign. The ads bear an image of Kaepernick’s face with the tagline “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The campaign has had polarizing results. While some critics publicly burned Nike apparel for the company’s affiliation with Kaepernick, Nike’s online sales surged in the immediate aftermath of the Kaepernick ad campaign.
Now, The Hill reports that the College of the Ozarks volleyball team competed in gray T-shirts and Adidas shorts after the school officially decided to stop using Nike uniforms. College of the Ozarks President Jerry Davis framed the decision as choosing “country over company,” per The Hill.
“If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them,” Davis’s statement said. “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.”
The Missouri-based NAIA school has made very clear it doesn’t wish its athletes (or the athletes of opposing teams) to join Kaepernick’s protests, which have spread throughout the NCAA and to other sports. The Hill reports that the school said it would walk away from any competition if an opponent took a knee or sat down during the national anthem.