Nine Line Apparel, a veteran-owned and -operated apparel company based in Georgia, this week called out Nike over its latest ad campaign featuring football player Colin Kaepernick saying that to believe in something means “sacrificing everything.”
Tyler Merritt, CEO and co-founder of Nine Line, told American Military News on Wednesday that the ad, which features the phrase “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,” is “disgraceful.”
“This isn’t a new stance,” he said. “Ever since he took a knee, we’ve been adamant about our opinions on the matter and how we feel.”
Merritt is a former Apache helicopter pilot and Special Operations Air Mission Commander in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) who has deployed numerous times to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula and South America in support of special operations. He was awarded the Bronze Star and numerous air medals for his actions in combat.
The issue of kneeling during the national anthem in protest has become a polarizing topic, Merritt said, adding, “Shame on Nike for assuming we’re as blind and stupid as they must believe to think this individual [Kaepernick] represents all that is good within the sport.”
Nine Line took to their Facebook page on Tuesday following Nike’s announcement this week releasing the ad with Kaepernick for the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” campaign. The ad was viewed by many as publicly supporting and figuratively “taking a knee” for the football player who has sparked debate across the nation.
The ad, which is a close-up black-and-white photo of Kaepernick, has the phrase, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything. #JustDoIt pic.twitter.com/SRWkMIDdaO
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
Nine Line posted an image to its Facebook page Tuesday that said, “Hey Nike, we fixed this for you…”
The image was of Pat Tillman, the fallen Army Ranger who turned down a 3-year, $3.6 million contract to enlist in the United States Army eight months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. After completing basic training and later graduating from Ranger school, Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004.
The same phrase that’s featured in Nike’s Kaepernick ad was also imposed over Tillman’s photo.
The post is no longer available on Nine Line’s Facebook page. Pat Tillman’s widow has made a public statement about politicizing her late husband’s death in the past.
Marie Tillman has said, “As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify,” Marie Tillman said. “It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together. Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that,” USA Today reported in 2017.
“Pat’s service, along with that of every man and woman’s service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us.” https://t.co/abUYkrr7gU
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 5, 2018
As far as those who have served and continue to serve their country, “You understand the background of saying this individual ‘sacrificed everything,'” Merritt told American Military News.
With Pat Tillman, “He gave up his illustrious career and then gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Merritt pointed out.
Taya Kyle, widow of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle depicted in the film “American Sniper,” took to social media this week where she shared an open letter to Nike and Kaepernick asking, “Sacrificing what exactly?”
With the issue having become so polarizing – much to the extent that it’s difficult to even have a conversation or dialogue about the subject, Merritt said – the “families don’t want to be involved; you have to respect that,” he said, adding that there are many other “iconic sports players who have done so much for their communities and military community” who would have been better examples than Kaepernick.
Nine Line had also posted a video later on Tuesday, which featured several examples of “just don’t do it,” which was the hash tag Nine Line used in the video.
Examples included having Nike sneakers and kneeling during the national anthem.
Watch the video here:
Nine Line also posted a “Just Don’t Do It” image, as well.
Nine Line says its goal is to “reinvigorate the sense of patriotism and national pride that is disappearing daily from our society,” its website proclaims. “Where politics and dissent divide our country, we hope to inspire unity and brotherhood among all Americans as patriots under our common flag.”
The company operates under three tenets:
Respect the flag and what it stands for. The flag represents the sacrifices made by those who have fought and died to preserve our freedom and should be honored as a sacred symbol of all we stand for.
Support those who have and continue to serve honorably as members of the military, police, fire department, or any other public service. Hold those who abuse their power accountable but understand they do not represent the entirety of those who serve to protect us.
Third, and most importantly, being patriotic is nothing to be ashamed of. We at Nine Line are proud of our country, our flag, and our birthright, and it is our goal to reinvigorate this pride into our nation once again.
Kaepernick is a professional football player who began the trend of players kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and black inequality.
Kaepernick has been a free agent and unsigned by a National Football League (NFL) team since March 2017. Kaepernick is alleging that NFL teams are colluding to keep him unemployed. There was recently a ruling in his favor that determined there was not enough evidence to dismiss his complaint, which the NFL had requested based on what it said was insufficient evidence to proceed.
The kneeling trend has continued for the past two years, including the 2017 football season as well as the current season.
Colin Kaepernick Featured in Nike’s 30th Anniversary ‘Just Do It’ Campaign. #Kaepernick #Nike #JustDoIt https://t.co/xza1aQUZiH
— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) September 3, 2018