Nike says ‘Don’t Do It’ when it comes to racism in reaction to George Floyd’s death

Sportswear giant releases ad in wake of protests over the police-involved death of black man

Nike has released a powerful new ad that addresses racism head-on, while putting a new twist on its long-used tagline. Following a week of protests and unrest in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd, the sportswear giant is urging Americans to “don’t do it.”

On Friday evening, the Beaverton, Oregon-based brand released a 60-second spot on its digital channels. In stark white text over a black screen, Nike tells consumers “For once, don’t do it. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us.” The spot, “For Once, Don’t Do It,” encourages people to stop being silent and making excuses, and instead to be part of the change.

It comes five days after Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck.

“Nike has a long history of standing against bigotry, hatred and inequality in all forms,” said a Nike spokeswoman in a statement. “We hope that by sharing this film we can serve as a catalyst to inspire action against a deep issue in our society and encourage people to help shape a better future.”

Wieden+Kennedy Portland was behind the ad. Other brands have weighed in on the tragedy, but Nike’s spot is notable for its blunt language and call for action. Nike’s tweet showing the ad drew more than 10,000 retweets and 19,000 likes within the first two hours it was posted on Friday evening.

Nike CEO John Donahue also sent a memo to staffers earlier Friday, according to Footwear News, which quoted the executive as mentioning several black individuals, including Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, to have died recently in the U.S.

Other marketers that have commented on Floyd’s death include Minneapolis-based retailers Target and Best Buy. Target, which had some stores in the city looted during protests, has closed 30 locations.

This is not the first time Nike has taken a stand on social issues. In 2018, the brand tapped controversial football player Colin Kaepernick for a campaign with the message “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The former San Francisco 49er had been sitting out the national anthem to protest racial inequalities. Nike’s commercial was seen as supporting the decision of players to kneel during the anthem in protest.

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