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Athletic Brands Take a Knee

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Athletic brands are speaking out against President Trump’s weekend Twitter storm concerning athletes refusing to stand during the national anthem. And now, a number of major footwear industry players are taking a knee in an effort to show solidarity with the NFL.

Nike, Under Armour, Puma and more brands are jumping to make their opinions known on players taking a knee to protest police brutality towards black people in the U.S.—a movement that began with 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year.

In a statement obtained by CNN, NFL official sponsor Nike said, “Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society.”

Nike, which also makes NFL uniforms, has been a loud opponent to a number of the current administration’s initiatives.

Meanwhile, Under Armour, another brand with NFL ties, is taking a less divisive stance. In a tweet Under Armour said that the brand “stands for the flag and by our athletes for free speech, expression and a unified America.”

This is not the first time Under Armour has been under the political microscope. CEO Kevin Plank came under fire for pro-Trump sentiments earlier this year, which upset brand ambassadors like NBA Championship winner Steph Curry, who openly stated he would not accept the White House’s customary invitation to visit, after which Trump uninvited the entire championship-winning team. Plank also served on Trump’s manufacturing council, which he left last month before Trump got rid of the council altogether.

Puma posted a clearer message in support of equality and Americans’ rights towards the first amendment by tweeting earlier this week that “The goal of equality for all remains a goal, not an achievement. We are proud to support athletes who promote freedom and fairness.”

Like Puma and Nike, the NFL made a clear statement supporting its athletes’ rights to peacefully protest.

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith released a statement over the weekend relaying the NFL’s stance on the issue:  “The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses. Those opinions are protected speech and freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history. This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussion in our locker rooms and in board rooms,” said Smith. “However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just ‘shut up and play.’”

The question remains if powerhouses like Nike and Puma will take a sales hit for making their opinions known. Meanwhile, the league’s viewership is already taking a hit, with DirecTV reportedly offering refunds on its Sunday Ticket NFL package according to Time, due to the NFL players protesting the national anthem.

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