Colin Kaepernick's image appears on bogus Nike coupons that have circulated online in recent days, offering huge discounts "for people of color" in the wake of the apparel giant making the controversial quarterback the face of its new ad campaign.
The barcode included in one of the coupons, which can be found on 4chan, an online bulletin board where most users post anonymously, came up as "invalid" when USA TODAY Sports took it to a Nike store in the Washington, D.C., area. Nike sent alerts to each of its retail locations in the U.S. to warn employees of the dubious coupons.
Nike unveiled the Kaepernick ads last week as part of a promotion to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the "Just Do It" slogan. The company has been criticized in some circles and animosity has inflamed toward Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who was the first to knee during the national anthem two years ago to protest police brutality and social injustice.
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One of the coupons calls for consumers "To show solidarity with the things WE believe in we are offering people of color 75% off any purchase of Nike's shoes or apparel."
"I wouldn't characterize this as a scam, but a full on racial epithet," Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, said in an email. "This is nothing more than a dog whistle to a small, and unfortunate, segment of America. Another way to put it is that this is a racial statement masquerading as a scam."
Some of the early fake coupons detailed by Snopes included a QR code that when scanned read, "This is a ROBBERY, Move slowly and put all the LARGE bills in the shoe box OR everyone DIES."
Nike's point-of-sale systems, however, aren't equipped to read QR codes, so that message would not have appeared if an associate had attempted to run it. Employees at two stores told USA TODAY Sports that none had seen a customer attempt to use any of the fake coupons.
The employees asked that their names not be used because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
"Scams related to brand names generally attempt to sell something that appears to be branded by the well-known name but is a fake," Gillis said. "This can be accomplished, for example, on the internet by setting up sites or offers with slight misspellings of the brand or company. It is a bit unusual for political issues and scams to be mixed."