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Nike drawn into NFL-Kaepernick dispute over private workout

Thomas Barrabi

Sportswear giant Nike was drawn into the middle of a dispute between the NFL and free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick regarding a planned private workout last Saturday.

Kaepernick pulled out of a private workout in front of officials from 25 teams at the Atlanta Falcons’ training facility shortly before it was set to begin amid concerns about the wording of a liability waiver that NFL representatives asked him to sign. The NFL, in turn, said that Kaepernick’s team submitted a rewritten waiver that was “insufficient.”

Instead, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback held a workout at a high school some 60 miles away from the planned location and invited the media to attend.

ALL NFL TEAMS GET COLIN KAEPERNICK WORKOUT VIDEO: REPORT

The NFL released a lengthy response to the situation, which noted in part that Nike – both a league sponsor and a Kaepernick endorser – had asked to attend the original workout. League officials added that they had planned to allow Kaepernick’s team access to raw footage of the event and allow them to see how it was recorded.

“Last night, when Nike, with Colin's approval, requested to shoot an ad featuring Colin and mentioning all the NFL teams present at the workout, we agreed to the request,” the NFL said in its statement.

Nike disputed the NFL’s assertion. A Nike spokeswoman told FOX Business that the company did not have a camera crew on the ground to capture the originally scheduled workout in Atlanta and had not planned to record any content there.

The New York Times was first to report the company’s response.

Nike is among the NFL’s most prominent sponsors, with a deal in place to serve as the league’s official supplier of uniforms and sideline gear through the 2028 season. While the deal’s financial terms were not disclosed, the company reportedly agreed to pay more than $1.1 billion when it first secured apparel rights in 2012.

The company was “confused” about the NFL’s decision to reference its involvement in the workout, a source familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.

The brand also has close ties to Kaepernick, who served as the face of Nike’s high-profile campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” slogan. A commercial starring Kaepernick received an Emmy award in September.

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Kaepernick’s representatives cited both an “unusual” liability waiver and the league’s refusal to allow media to observe the private workout as factors in its decision to move the event to another location.

“Based on the prior conduct by the NFL league office, Mr. Kaepernick simply asks for a transparent and open process which is why a new location has been selected for today,” Kaepernick’s representatives said in a statement.

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Eight teams attended Kaepernick’s revised workout at the high school. In a brief speech after the workout concluded, Kaepernick called on the NFL’s 32 teams and Commissioner Roger Goodell to “stop running." Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season when he led player national anthem protests against social injustice and police brutality.

“Colin's decision has no effect on his status in the League. He remains an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any club,” the NFL’s statement added.

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