Jerry Falwell Jr. ponders breaking Liberty's Nike contract over Colin Kaepernick ad

Yahoo Sports
President Donald Trump proudly accepts the Nike-sponsored Liberty football jersey that Jerry Falwell Jr. gave him. (Getty Images)
President Donald Trump proudly accepts the Nike-sponsored Liberty football jersey that Jerry Falwell Jr. gave him. (Getty Images)

Jerry Falwell Jr., the eldest son of the televangelist who blamed the September 11 terrorist attacks on homosexuals, thinks the university that his father founded — and where he now serves as president — should abandon its athletic department’s contract with Nike, unless their advertising campaign built around former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is an exploitative publicity stunt.

That’s a mouthful. Maybe we ought to let Falwell speak for himself here:

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“We’re exploring the situation,” he told USA Today. “If Nike really does believe that law enforcement in this country is unfair and biased, I think we will look around. If we have a contract, we’ll honor it, but we strongly support law enforcement and strongly support our military and veterans who died to protect our freedoms and if the company really believes what Colin Kaepernick believes, it’s going to be hard for us to keep doing business with them.

“But if it’s just a publicity stunt to bring attention to Nike or whatever, that’s different. We understand that. We understand how marketing works. But they’re going to have to convince us that they’re not proactively attacking law enforcement officers and our military. If that’s the reason behind using this ad, we’re going to have a hard time staying.”

Liberty signed its contract with Nike last year

There’s a lot of places we could start with this, but let’s begin with this: “If we have a contract, we’ll honor it.” The university inked a deal with Nike to provide its sports teams with apparel through 2024.

So, we’re good, then? Not exactly.

What Colin Kaepernick believes

Here’s what Kaepernick believes: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” That’s what he said after he first sat in protest of racial inequality and social injustice during the national anthem. He has since donated more than $1 million to the cause.

What Falwell thinks Kaepernick believes

If I’m reading Falwell correctly here, he thinks Nike shouldn’t support freeing people of color from oppression. And let me just say that if Nike believes “law enforcement in this country is unfair and biased,” it would not be alone, since police forces across the country require undergo implicit bias training to deconstruct inherent racial and economic prejudices officers might have against citizens.

It’s almost as if by conceding he has not even watched the Nike commercial featuring Kaepernick in its entirety and suggesting, “We’re exploring the situation,” Falwell hasn’t quite thought this all through.

Kaepernick is anti-racism, not anti-military

Falwell has compared President Donald Trump to Winston Churchill and held high the man who admittedly paid hush money to a porn star as a pillar of his father’s Moral Majority, and like Trump, the Liberty president believes Kaepernick does not support the U.S. military and its veterans.

This, of course, is not true. Kaepernick has repeatedly said he has “the utmost respect” for members of the U.S. military and thanked them for providing the freedom to protest. A number of military veterans have pledged their support for Kaepernick, including one — Green Beret turned NFL long snapper Nate Boyer — who coincidentally on Friday chastised people in power for characterizing the protest as anti-military rather than anti-racism. I wonder who he could have been talking about.

Those pesky pig socks

Falwell specifically took issue with the socks Kaepernick wore that depicted police officers as pigs. This has been a sticking point for many who misinterpret Kaepernick’s quest for social justice since wearing those socks, even though he has clarified that the socks were worn in protest of “rogue cops” who “not only put the community in danger, but also put the cops that have the right intentions in danger by creating an environment of tension and mistrust.” Again, anti-racist-cop, not anti-cop.

Falwell is totally cool with exploitation

The real stunner in all this, though, is that Falwell is totally cool with Nike exploiting Kaepernick. Or at least that he’s openly totally cool with it. He even doubled down on it in his interview with USA Today:

“We just want to find out what the company is trying to achieve. Are they trying to use their wealth and influence to attack law enforcement or just make some money by exploiting the attention this former quarterback is getting?”

Nike is not attacking law enforcement, nor is Kaepernick, and the fact that Falwell is all for a billion-dollar business exploiting a black man taking a stand against racism in this country tells you all you need to know about his morality. Which begs the question: Is Falwell just trying to use his influence to attack Nike or make some money by exploiting the attention Kaepernick is getting? Or both.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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