Colin Kaepernick’s jersey sales have jumped to the top of the league since he made his protest by not standing for the National Anthem. Since the initial backlash, more players and fans have come out in support of Kaepernick’s stance. Now some public opinion has started to swing, and to his credit. Kaepernick will donate the proceeds from his jersey sales to charity — which helps further the thought that this is more than just about Colin Kaepernick. While some people may be shocked Kaep’s jerseys are flying off the shelves, this is not the first time that a back-up or someone who represents a cause has had high jersey sales.
As of now, Kaepernick is listed as the second QB on the Niners depth chart behind Blaine Gabbert. Back-ups normally don’t sell jerseys, but Kaepernick has had some previous success on the field. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get a start if Gabbert — a historically mediocre NFL QB — struggles. There’s another QB who was a career back-up — or training camp cut — who had a high selling jersey. He just happens to be trying to play baseball now. Tim Tebow played for the Broncos, Jets, Eagles, and Patriots. In the case of the Eagles and Patriots he didn’t even make the team. His jerseys still sold. This was more about the cult of Tebow than anything else. He did have a playoff win in Denver, but he was a back-up on the Jets and Tebow jerseys still flew off the shelves.
In terms of cause focused jerseys sales, Kaepernick isn’t alone there either. Michael Sam — the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL — didn’t even make the Rams when he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Sam didn’t even play a single down and he was still in the top-ten of jersey sales bolstered by support of the LGBTQ community.
On the other end of the Kaepernick spectrum, Pat Tillman — the Cardinals safety who retired to joined the armed services after 9/11 — still has a jersey sold at NFL.com. Tillman jersey’s never reached the level of Sam or Kaepernick, but fans who bought Tillman’s No. 40 are probably doing so as a dedication to the man and his sacrifice giving up his career to defend his country.
Buying a Kaepernick, Sam or Tillman jersey is more about supporting the cause of the player than the player directly. The jerseys stand for something more than just the team or person on the field. Cause marketing is everywhere and in this case the jersey can represent the movement. It’s probably safe to say if someone is buying a Kaepernick Niners No. 7 jersey, it means a lot more than just liking Colin Kaepernick the player. The NFL uses cause marketing when it has pink jerseys in support of breast cancer research or camouflage gear in support of the armed forces. Kaep’s jersey isn’t selling because of Kaep. It is selling because his message has resonated with a group of Americans.