Top celebrity endorsers for sports apparel rivals Nike and Adidas found themselves on opposite ends of the political spectrum on Thursday, as Adidas endorser Kanye West met with President Trump at the White House even as Nike endorser Colin Kaepernick remains the face of player protests in the NFL.
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West, who collaborates with Adidas on its “Yeezy” line of footwear and apparel, had lunch with Trump in the Oval Office. The rapper wore Trump’s trademark “Make America Great Again” hat and addressed everything from his respect for the president to relations with North Korea to the state of mental health in America during a lengthy monologue.
"I tell you what, that was pretty impressive," Trump said after West spoke. “That was quite something.”
A prominent Trump supporter, West has also expressed support for Kaepernick, the NFL free agent who in 2016 became the first player to kneel during the national anthem to protest social injustice. Nike drew criticism last month for featuring Kaepernick in a major marketing campaign for the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan, with some arguing that the brand had aligned itself with a divisive political stance.
West attempted earlier this month to broker a meeting between Kaepernick and Trump, urging the former NFL star to “speak with the president to tell him your experience directly.” Trump has publicly criticized Kaepernick and other NFL players for anthem protests and called for the league to impose stiff penalties on them.
Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted told CNBC earlier this week that West has been a “fantastic ambassador” for the company, though he admitted he was unaware that the rapper intended to meet with Trump for lunch.
“I didn't even know whether he's going [to see] Trump. But I'm having dinner with him Wednesday night and I've been very happy with our relationship,” Rorsted said.
West’s and Kaepernick’s divergent political views have not appeared to have any negative impact on their companies’ business. Nike CEO Mark Parker said last month that the brand has seen “record engagement” and a sales uptick since the launch of its Kaepernick campaign, while the Adidas CEO said last May that West was a “very important part of our brand from a revenue standpoint.”