Nike, Inc., the global sports apparel and footwear giant, said today that it has filed for bankruptcy. The announcement comes eight weeks after a controversial advertising campaign sparked a boycott of the company.
That boycott, a Nike spokesman said, proved to be the company’s undoing.
“We knew using Mr. Kaepernick would rub some people the wrong way,” said Nelson Muntz, VP of Marketing. “What we didn’t know was just how many of these people were out there—and how committed they would be.”
“We realize it now,” he added. “All too late.”
Almost immediately upon launching the campaign, social media users were voicing their anger and sharing photos and videos of themselves destroying Nike shoes and apparel.
In one viral tweet, a “former marine” is shown holding the tops of a pair of Nike socks. “Our Soundman just cut the Nike swoosh off his socks,” the tweet reads. “Get ready @Nike multiply that by the millions.”
The warning, widely mocked at the time, turned out to be eerily prescient, as was a tweet by President Trump, in which he gloated that Nike was “getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts.”
Nike and its defenders laughed at the time, industry experts said. But they aren’t laughing now.
“When Nike unveiled the Kaepernick ad, I figured the backlash would follow the usual pattern,” said Lindsey Naegle, a professor of public relations at Springfield College. “In other words, an immediate flurry of self-righteous indignation and anger on social media that would peter out within days and then, weeks later, seem like ancient history.”
Instead, Naegle said, the anger was relentless—and the company, like a boxer on the ropes, took repeated blows that its bottom line could not sustain. Millions of Americans did, indeed, destroy Nike apparel and shoes, and that somehow hurt the company.
How? No one is sure. But for Muntz, the Nike spokesman, and his estimated 74,000 fellow Nike employees around the world, none of that matters now.
“Our hubris was our undoing,” said Muntz, as he loaded a cardboard box into his car in Nike’s parking lot. “We have learned our lesson.”
“We are just so sorry.”