President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Nike's new ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick a "terrible message," one day after the shoe and apparel company rolled out the advertisements.
In the ad, Kaepernick's face is shown with the words, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
BREAKING: Nike had been paying Colin Kaepernick all along, waiting for the right moment. That moment is now, as he becomes the face of the company's 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" campaign. pic.twitter.com/uccpDStbq5— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 3, 2018
"I think it's a terrible message that they're sending and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there's a reason for them doing it," Trump told the Daily Caller, a conservative political website, "but I think as far as sending a message, I think it's a terrible message and a message that shouldn't be sent. There's no reason for it."
Trump has been critical of NFL players who kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest against social injustice, and he has frequently called out the league and commissioner Roger Goodell for their inability to curtail the practice.
Multiple sources have told ESPN's Dan Graziano that the NFL was not aware of the Nike ad campaign until it was launched Monday. In fact, sources told ESPN's Darren Rovell that none of the organizations Nike makes apparel for was privy to the Kaepernick ad before it was unveiled.
While he disagrees with "the Colin Kaepernick endorsement," Trump noted "it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn't do, but I personally am on a different side of it."
Trump also mentioned his relationship with Nike -- its Niketown store in New York City is located in a property owned by Trump.
"Nike is a tenant of mine," Trump said. "They pay a lot of rent."
The company in December made a decision to move its Niketown out of Trump's property and is in the process of vacating.
The unveiling of the ad campaign, which is meant to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the brand's iconic "Just Do It" motto, led to a massive day on social media for Nike on Monday. More than 1.3 million tweets referenced Nike, and it was the No. 1 trend on Twitter for more than seven hours on Labor Day.
Kaepernick's inclusion in the ad campaign being run by a major NFL sponsor also prompted the league to issue a statement Tuesday discussing social justice.
"The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity," Jocelyn Moore, the NFL's executive vice president of communications and public affairs, said in a statement. "We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities.
"The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action."
Many were anticipating a reaction from the NFL because of Kaepernick's collusion grievance against the league. Kaepernick's case claims that owners violated their collective bargaining agreement with players by conspiring to keep him off teams because of his protests. The case, which was allowed to go to trial, hinges on whether owners worked together rather than decided individually not to sign Kaepernick.
Responding to a critique made by The Athletic in regard to the NFL's statement, NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said the league is "starting to do the work" that the NFLPA believes is necessary.
We believe that Colin should have a job and also that the NFL should commit to supporting players on these issues. They are both meaningful and important. The league, at the behest of the players, are starting to do the work.— George Atallah (@GeorgeAtallah) September 4, 2018
Nike signed Kaepernick in 2011 and kept him on its endorsement roster over the years. The company had not used him in the past two years.
"We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward," Gino Fisanotti, Nike's vice president of brand for North America, told ESPN on Monday.
Williams, who advanced to the US Open semifinals on Tuesday, discussed Kaepernick and Nike.
"He's done a lot for the African-American community, and it's cost him a lot. It's sad," Williams said after her win. "But he continues to do the best that he can to support.
"Having a huge company back him, you know, could be a controversial reason for this company, but they're not afraid. I feel like that was a really powerful statement to a lot of other companies."
James, who signed a lifetime deal with Nike in 2015, praised both the company and Kaepernick on Tuesday night.
"I stand for anybody that believes in change. I stand for anybody that believes in a positive attitude,'' James said while at a Nike fashion show and awards ceremony in New York. "I stand with Nike, every day, all day."
Kaepernick's protests of racial injustice -- which he began in August 2016 by sitting and later kneeling during the national anthem -- launched a movement across the NFL. A free agent, he has not been signed since the conclusion of the 2016 season.