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Soccer star Megan Rapinoe speaks out about race and change as part of new Nike campaign

Key Points
  • Soccer star Megan Rapinoe narrated Nike's new spot. 
  • The campaign features 36 pairings of athletes including Lebron James, Serena Williams and Colin Kaepernick. 
  • The ad will make its debut at NBA tipoff in Orlando on Thursday night. 
Megan Rapinoe voices Nike's new "You Can't Stop Sport" film.
Source: Nike

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe says the world has gone through big changes this year when it comes to race and equality but the conversation needs to continue. 

"Players may be back on the pitch, but we are not going back to an old normal. We need to continue to reimagine this world and make it better," she said in a statement. 

It's a cause that's personal to Rapinoe. The two-time World Cup champion has been an advocate for equality throughout her career. She was the first White U.S. pro athlete outside of the NFL to kneel during the national anthem. That was on Sept. 4, 2016, just eight days after Colin Kaepernick gained notoriety for his silent protest during a 49ers preseason game.  

"The fact that people are finally starting to really listen and truly believe what Colin has been saying. They're starting to finally see and hear the collective experience of black and brown people in this country — whether it's the larger terrorizing of communities, or the less violent micro aggressions," she added. 

Rapinoe said it's a great first step, but we need to continue to work to "dismantle the broken system." 

The 35-year-old Rapinoe, named the 2019 Best FIFA Women's player, said she's grateful for all the organizers and activists of the Black Lives Matters Movement who have been doing so much work over the past few months. 

"They really have given the country an opportunity to remake this world in a better way. ... I think we should all be very thankful for them doing this work to put us in a position where we have a template and we have a really, really amazing groundwork and foundation laid that — at the heart — is about respecting the creating equality for all people."

As Rapinoe seeks to continue the conversation, she is starring in a new Nike campaign about athletes advocating for change and standing up for their communities.

The short film is designed to show the commonalities shared by athletes around the world and some of the challenges they must overcome, whether it's bouncing back after an injury, seeking equal rights or handling things that are out of their control, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

You Can't Stop Us" will debut on TV as part of National Basketball Association tipoff on Thursday. The spot will feature a montage of 36 pairs of Nike athletes including LeBron James, Serena Williams and Kaepernick.

Nike's "You Can't Stop Us," campaign features 36 pairings of athletes.
Source: Nike

"I believe in this film because it's so important for companies and brands to give athletes a real voice in this moment, and to say something that's meaningful and powerful during this time to bring more people into the movement," she said. 

It's a familiar theme for the sports apparel company. In 2018, Nike won an Emmy for best commercial, for its "Dream Crazy" campaign featuring Kaepernick. However, while this is an important message for the Nike brand to consumers, the company has seen some turmoil within its own management. Just last week, the company announced it was replacing its diversity chief for the second time in two years. 

In June, amid the Black Lives Matters protests and calls for action, Nike and the Jordan brand announced a donation of $140 million over the next 10 years to organizations dedicated to racial equality and social justice. 

The ads will debut on TV as part of NBA tipoff.
Source: Nike

Nike's newest ad comes at a time where cash-strapped companies are pulling back on ad spending, as marketing budgets are often the first things slashed during a financial downturn.  

Yet the sports apparel giant has fared better than most, helped in part by its direct-to-consumer growth. In the fourth quarter ended May 31, sales fell 38% but digital sales saw 75% growth.

Rapinoe's star power has never been bigger. She will be appearing in a special interview series on HBO Sports beginning Saturday where she will be highlighting political issues through various interviews. Sports Illustrated named her their 2019 Sportsperson of the Year, amidst her heroics on the soccer field, her activism with social issues and her fight for equal pay in women's soccer.

Rapinoe, who appears in and narrates the film, said she believes it's important for her to use her platform to stand up for what's right.

"I happen to be an athlete in a country that glorifies athletes and asks them to be role models. So I am going to use that, whenever I can, to stand up for what's right and to do the right thing. I'm going to use the power that sport has given me, to do the right thing."