Update: Louisiana mayor reverses decision on Nike gear ban in recreation facilities
UPDATE: On Sept. 12, Kenner, La., Mayor Ben Zahn announced at a news conference that he is withdrawing his order that banned the city’s recreation department fromNike products to use at its , according to the Associated Press.
Zahn said he took this action based on the city attorney’s advice. “That memorandum divided our city and placed Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage,” he said, the AP reports.
However, on the other side of the country on Sept. 17, the North Smithfield, R.I., Town Council approved a non-binding, immediate resolution that asked town departments to not buy Nike products, according to the AP. Council President John Beauregard introduced the legislation due to negative remarks Colin Kaepernick allegedly made about.
“The town is not taking a position about not ordering or purchasing Nike products as a result of this,” Beauregard said, per the AP. “It’s just that we’re making a simple request and that’s it. That’s all it is. There’s nothing more to it. There’s no teeth in this resolution.”
However, the move has since garnered backlash from the American Civil Liberties Union and from North Smithfield residents, who questioned the resolution’s validity with regard to the First Amendment, Patch reports. Two days after the vote passed, Beauregard called a special council meeting for Sept. 24 to get the council to rescind the resolution.
“I am not doing this because my views on this subject have changed,” Beauregard wrote in a news release, according to Patch. “I still feel as strong about (the) subject today as I did Monday. I am only doing this because of the backlash to my town, the businesses in my town, the schools and all the residents. I don’t want to drag anyone into my fight that did not choose to be in it.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Following the recent debut of Colin Kaepernick as the face of Nike’s “Just Do It” ad campaign, the mayor of a small Louisiana town has banned his city’s recreational facilities from buying Nike products.
Released on Sept. 3, Nike’s ad features Kaepernick, the NFL player who garnered attention in 2016 for being the first in the league to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, People magazine reports. Text on the ad reads, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The ad has since garnered backlash. Among that backlash was a memo that Kenner, La. Mayor Ben Zahn sent to the director of the Kenner Parks and Recreation Department on Sept. 5,. In the memo, Zahn instructs the director to not permit any booster club operating at Kenner recreational facilities to purchase Nike products.
While the memo was meant to be internal, Kenner Councilman Gregory Carroll shared it on Facebook on Sept. 9, Louisiana TV station KTLA reports.
“I was not made aware of this decision beforehand and it is in direct contradiction of what I stand for and what the City of Kenner should stand for. I am 100% AGAINST this decision,” Carroll wrote on Facebook.
Other Kenner council members have either not commented on Zahn’s direction or have remained neutral on the subject, the Times-Picayune reports. “The mayor made his administrative policy decision, and I respect that,” Kenner City Councilman Mike Sigur told the Times-Picayune.
In a statement issued on Sept. 10, Zahn defended the order, saying he wanted to keep taxpayer dollars out of politics and prevent companies from profiting off of taxpayer dollars.
“In Kenner, like every city, our citizens and our taxpayers cover a wide spectrum of political philosophies and agendas. We must respect all of those agendas and philosophies. So, when a company uses its advertising as its own political megaphone, government should be fair to all of its people and not allow taxpayer dollars to be used to help that company push its own political agenda,” Zahn said in the statement, per New Orleans TV station WDSU.
“My decision is only to protect taxpayer dollars from being used in a political campaign. Some have asked if people will be allowed to wear Nike apparel on city playgrounds. The answer to that is … of course,” Zahn continued, per WDSU.
A day later, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) sharply criticized the mayor’s move, calling it “pandering” and ”shameful,” according to the Times-Picayune.
“Instead of playing petty politics to score cheap points to the detriment of Little League players, Mayor Zahn should be working on behalf of his entire community,” Richmond said in his statement.