EXCLUSIVE: Trump Critical, But Says Nike’s Kaepernick Deal ‘Is What This Country Is All About’

Vince Coglianese and Saagar Enjeti | Editorial Director and White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Nike sent a “terrible message” this week by making former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick one of the faces representing the 30th anniversary of the company’s “Just Do It” campaign. But he also said the company’s ability to make its own business decisions “is what this country is all about.”

“I think it’s a terrible message. Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent,” Trump said, referring to Niketown New York, which is — for now —  located at 6 East 57th Street in New York City.

The president made the remarks during an exclusive Oval Office interview with The Daily Caller Tuesday afternoon. (RELATED: Trump Says Bob Woodward Has ‘A Lot Of Credibility Problems’)

Kaepernick kicked off a protest movement among some NFL players during the 2016 pre-season when he began kneeling at games during the national anthem, rather than standing.

Kaepernick, who now alleges that league owners are colluding to keep him off an NFL roster, explained the rationale behind his protest in August of that year: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

President Trump has been staunchly and vocally opposed to players protesting during the anthem, tweeting in September 2017, for instance, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”

On Monday afternoon, Kaepernick tweeted an image from Nike’s campaign, with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” written across the athlete’s face.

Trump added Tuesday that “there’s no reason” for the famous sports apparel company to tap Kaepernick for the campaign.

“But I think it’s a terrible message that they’re sending and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there’s a reason for them doing it,” Trump mused, “but I think as far as sending a message, I think it’s a terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent. There’s no reason for it.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Trump Says He Won’t Be Watching Neil Armstrong Movie After American Flag Snub)

Despite that, Trump acknowledged that it’s Nike’s right to make its own business decisions.

“As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it,” Trump said.

“In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do, but I personally am on a different side of it.”

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