After President Trump unleashed a verbal tirade on the NFL at a rally in Alabama on Friday, and NFL owners and players responded on Saturday, many wondered how NFL sponsors would respond to the controversy.
On Monday, Nike responded—and took a clear position.
In a statement sent to the media, the company said: “Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society.”
It’s a short statement, but it speaks volumes. Nike came out in support of the players’ right to protest. That’s not the same as saying Nike supports the protests themselves, but even supporting the players’ right to protest represents a big risk for the brand.
Another NFL sponsor, Under Armour, sent out a tweet on Saturday about Trump’s comments, but the statement very carefully avoided taking a side. The company said it “stands for the flag and by our Athletes for free speech, expression and a unified America.” It is a good example of the cautious, sit-on-the-fence approach NFL sponsors typically take amidst scandals.