On Monday, news broke that Colin Kaepernick is starring in a new Nike ad. Kaepernick was the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem before games in 2016 to protest against racial inequality and police brutality. Some on the right, including Trump, saw the protest as disrespectful to the military, with Trump calling for players who protested to be fired.
In an interview with The Daily Caller on Tuesday, Trump said he thought that Nike was sending a "terrible message" with the ad, but that Nike was free to make the decision.
Trump was also quick to mention his own business relationship with Nike.
"Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent," Trump said.
Nike is, in fact, the Trump Organisation's biggest tenant in a single space, with the company leasing 65,000 square feet (just over 6,000 metres square) of space on East 57th Street for Niketown.
But Trump's quote raised some eyebrows. The president has been a vocal critic of players' protests, with his influence reportedly contributing to the NFL's and team owners' decision to announce a policy that would force players to either stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room while it is being played. That policy has been on hold since the NFL Players Association filed a grievance in July, The Washington Post reported.
As a result, some wondered whether Trump tempered his response to Nike's Kaepernick ad simply because the company is paying rent to the Trump Organisation.
Representatives for Nike and the Trump Organisation did not immediately return Business Insider's request for comment on Trump's statements.
While Trump's business relationship with Nike may have factored into his response, Nike announced in 2017 that it was planning on closing its store in the space it rents from the Trump Organisation. The decision comes as Nike prepares for the 2019 opening of its new store, just five blocks down Fifth Avenue. Niketown closed in March.
Nike's move seems to be predominantly motivated by a change in its strategy, which is now focused on more experimental and modern conveniences that the ageing store couldn't provide. However, in 2017, two anonymous Nike employees told Forbes that while space issues at Niketown were the biggest reason for the move, the association with Trump's brand was only "a factor, to some degree."
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