With Nike under fire from conservatives who are unhappy with its decision to use former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick in a new ad campaign, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin took to social media Thursday to urge Mainers to lace up New Balance shoes instead.
“With Nike hiring Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers famed kneeling quarterback, who protested during our national anthem, there has never been a better time to show off your Maine-Made New Balance shoes!” the 2nd District Republican wrote on his Facebook page.
“There are hundreds of your fellow Mainers who make these shoes that no doubt agree,” Poliquin wrote. “Share if you agree too.”
Kaepernick gained notoriety in September 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African-Americans.
The Nike advertising campaign features a large, black-and-white photo of Kaepernick’s face and the words: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just do it.”
The campaign has spurred protests by conservatives and a smack-down on Nike’s image.
President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter this week: “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way?”
Morning Consult found that before the new ad campaign, 49 percent of Americans “said they were absolutely certain or very likely to buy Nike products. That figure is down to 39 percent now.”
Poliquin, who is seeking a third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, is locked in a tight re-election fight with Democrat Jared Golden of Lewiston. Also in the running are independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar.
Hoar, one of two independents in the Nov. 6 congressional election, said, “If Poliquin wants to work as a fashion consultant after the midterm elections, I am 100 percent behind his career change.”
He said Mainers “should feel proud to sport and support New Balance because they are Maine-made,” but the congressman should not tie it to controversial issues.
“Don’t try to politicize clothing,” said Hoar, a Southwest Harbor educator.
Boston-based New Balance has manufacturing plants in Norway, Skowhegan and Norridgewock that employ about 1,000.
Poliquin often wears New Balance shoes as he campaigns across his sprawling, mostly rural district. Two years ago, he helped convince the military to buy New Balance athletic footwear.
In this file photo, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, right, talks with John Alvarez, public affairs manager of New Balance, in October 2016 about the methods New Balance uses to put soles on its shoes. (Sun Journal file photo)
Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, right, talks with John Alvarez, public affairs manager of New Balance, in October 2016 about the methods New Balance uses to put soles in their shoes. (Sun Journal file photo)
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin posted this message Thursday on Facebook.