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NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant said he’s not surprised by Nike’s support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been blackballed by the league following his public protest of police brutality against African Americans.
“It’s bigger than Nike, Nike’s core value is the athlete itself and you have to stand by what that athlete believes in,” Bryant said in an interview Thursday on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley.” If this is what the athlete believes in this is what you support so it doesn’t complicate things much at all.”
Nike’s value and brand, he said, are closely aligned with the players that wear its clothes.
“Nike’s mission is a very simple one ever since Phil Knight started the company the mandate was to listen to the voice of the athlete,” said Bryant.
Kaepernick was unofficially blackballed by the National Football League after leading other players in taking the knee during the playing of the U.S. national anthem to protest police violence. Nike drew some controversy and calls to boycott its products after running a 60-second ad featuring the NFL quarterback that went viral last year. The ad won accolades at Sunday night’s Emmy awards, winning company’s its first one 17 years.
Bryant has also done well as an investor since leaving the court in 2016.
He partnered that year with former Web.com president Jeff Stibel, starting a $100 million investment fund focusing on media, technology, and data related companies.
Bryant’s also invested in BodyArmor , a Gatorade competitor, taking a $6 million stake in the company in 2018. That investment is now reportedly worth $200 million after Coca-Cola invested in the company.
The three-time NBA champion’s most recent investments include Cholula hot sauce and Epic Games.