JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville pastor is encouraging his congregation to wear Nike to church in support of the company’s new "Just Do It" ad, narrated by Colin Kaepernick, which is scheduled to air during the NFL season opener Thursday night.
The endorsement deal between Nike and Kaepernick prompted a flood of debate, as sports fans across the country reacted to the apparel giant backing the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who was the first athlete to kneel during "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
At The Bethel Church in downtown Jacksonville, the senior pastor openly supports Kaepernick and said he agrees with Nike's new ad.
In the spot, Kaepernick says, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything."
Despite the separation of church and state, Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. of The Bethel Church said it’s time to make a public statement about social injustices. That's why he said he welcomes members of his megachurch to wear Nike.
"For breast cancer awareness, or whether it be sickle cell, or doing Black History Month where we symbolize something -- I’m for what Nike is doing and anybody going out and buying Nike. It makes a statement about how we feel about not only them selecting Kaepernick, but selecting him because of what he stands for."
The deal unveiled by Nike and the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was a trending topic on Twitter and other social networks, with some fans urging a boycott of the company's clothes and sneakers -- even burning and cutting out the signature swoosh logos on their gear.
Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona told News4Jax:
"The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) believes all people, including those we disagree with, have a right to free speech no matter how offensive they choose to be and we will continue to protect their rights. We will continue to go into every community daily and make a positive difference. The FOP will not call for a boycott but we are certain individual members and the community will keep these insults, and the company that made them, in mind when making purchases. We believe that the visceral reaction that we’ve seen to their campaign is a strong indication that they missed the boat by picking a divisive spokesperson who once wore socks depicting police as pigs and donated money to a convicted cop killer."
Some said they're against Kaepernick's way of protesting, but not against Nike.
"I don’t like that. I’m a big military support guy. They fight for our freedom. If you’re going to kneel for the flag, it’s wrong. You shouldn’t," said Austin Wilkerson, who lives in Jacksonville. "But then again, everybody has their own reasons for doing it."
The hashtag #DonateNike is spreading social media as organizations around town are urging people wanting to get rid of their Nike apparel to consider donating it to a good cause.
The following organizations will accept donations:
Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry (BEAM) - jaxbeam.org
City Rescue Mission - crmjax.org
Church of Eleven 22 - coe22.com
Downtown Ecumenical Services Council (DESC) - descjax.org
Hubbard House - hubbardhouse.org
Salvation Army - salvationarmyflorida.org
Trinity Rescue Mission - trinityrescue.org