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Trump saved his comments for an interview with The Daily Caller where he criticized the partnership while taking a more nuanced approach than people have come to expect from the president.
Donald Trump: Nike’s Kaepernick deal a ‘terrible message’
“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 said.
He quickly changed his mind, deciding that there is no reason for the deal.
“But I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent,” Trump said. “There’s no reason for it.”
Trump touts Nike’s right to make deal
Trump then softened his stance in deference to the First Amendment, taking a turn from his normal hard-line approach against Kaepernick and the social-justice kneeling campaign he inspired.
“As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it,” Trump said. “In another way, 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.”
It’s the kind of dialogue generally not heard around the NFL kneeling debate, a tone that could help tamp down the anger on the issue from both sides. Coming from Trump, who has stoked the flames of the debate at nearly every turn, it’s especially surprising.
It appears that temperate tone was reserved for Nike. In that Nike has the freedom to do things that others disagree with. It’s not a liberty he has espoused for Kaepernick or other NFL players he has chosen to vilify for their kneeling stances.
Trump: Nike pays ‘a lot of rent’
His explanation about his relationship with Nike might explain why.
“I think it’s a terrible message,” Trump reiterated. “Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent.”
Nike has a five-story, 65,000 square foot flagship store along New York’s famed Fifth Avenue shopping district housed in a property run by the Trump Organization.
Forbes reported in December that Nike plans to leave the estimated $253 million property the publication describes as the largest space in Trump’s portfolio occupied by a a single tenant. Whether Nike had the Kaepernick deal in mind when it decided to relocate is not known.
Trump’s comments do beg the question of what his stance toward Kaepernick would be if he was one of his organization’s most lucrative tenants.
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