Colorado sports apparel and memorabilia store owner Stephen Martin last September boycotted Nike because of an ad they did featuring former NFL star Colin Kaepernick. And now Martin announced that he has gone bankrupt and his store is closing.
— CNN (@CNN) February 14, 2019
When they did the controversial advertising campaign featuring Kaepernick Nike, took a risk — but that risk has really paid off. Nike shares rose 36 percent in 2018 even though many stores and customers boycotted the brand.
The boycott didn’t hurt Nike but it certainly did hurt small retailers who participated.
Martin, owner of Prime Time Sports in Colorado Springs, took issue with the Kaepernick ad, which was released in September of 2018. He sold off the Nike inventory in his store, which was doing a thriving business in sports apparel and memorabilia.
He actually made national news as the media focused on a conservative store owner who decided to stop selling products from the biggest name in sports merchandise.
Martin said that he knew the Nike boycott would hurt his business. But he didn’t expect that it would hurt so much that he would be forced to close his store.
“Being a sports store without Nike is like being a gas station without gas,” Martin said. “They have a virtual monopoly on jerseys. There is no other option.”
“This was never about property to me, this was about principle.”
The small store owner made clear that his boycott was not about profit, and even though the lost revenue played a role in his decision to close the store he was glad he did it.
“You don’t trample over the men who have given Colin Kaepernick and me the right to free speech,” Martin said.
One thing that Martin did not explain was how Kaepernick taking a knee at a football game trampled over the people who gave him “the right to free speech.”
Still, Kaepernick had become a polarizing figure throughout the country in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games. His actions sparked a movement throughout the game, and other football players also began to kneel as a silent protest of police brutality and racial injustice.
Lots of white people didn’t like seeing black athletes exercise their own constitutional rights to freedom of expression. And some, like Martin, became outraged at Nike when they hired Kaepernick to appear in their ads.
He started selling his Nike products at half-price even though the brand’s products made up 50 percent of his store’s inventory.
And certainly the risk he took to boycott Nike did not pay off. Martin announced on Facebook Monday that after 21 years, he’s going out of business.
“For everybody that has offered help and support through the “Honor The Flag” memorial wall and NIKE boycott, now is your time to help me liquidate,” he wrote. “Please do your Facebook thing with everyone you know so this can go as quickly as possible.”
Even though he is no longer playing in the NFL, Kaepernick has seen his fortunes rise since he started a movement by taking a knee. Not only has he made millions of dollars from Nike, he also has received numerous awards.
The fight against racism is ongoing in America, and it is far from over. But comparing the experiences of Colin Kaepernick to those of Stephen Martin should give us hope that eventually the fight will be won.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.