KENNER, Louisiana – The mayor of a New Orleans suburb has banned the city’s parks and recreation department from purchasing Nike products, days after the sportswear maker released a controversial ad backing former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn’s memo to the director of parks and recreation states that Nike products cannot be purchased for use in city recreation facilities. It also requires the manager to approve all sports purchases made by recall clubs using their facilities. The policy sparked a backlash over the weekend, with many calling for its cancellation.
Kaepernick sparked a firestorm in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice in America. He gave up his contract after the end of that season and then couldn’t find a job with another NFL team. He is suing the league for collusion.
Nike ran an ad last week featuring Kaepernick and the message: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Zahn’s note, written last Wednesday, and a statement on Monday clarifying his position did not specifically mention Kaepernick. But in Monday’s statement, Zahn said that by applauding Nike’s message of inclusion, the company was promoting a “political message” to sell shoes.
“In Kenner, as in every city, our citizens and taxpayers cover a wide range of political philosophies and agendas. We have to respect all of these agendas and philosophies. So when a business uses its advertising as its own political mouthpiece, the government should be fair to all of its people and not allow taxpayers’ money to be used to help that business advance its own political agenda ” , said the mayor. He added that people would be allowed to wear Nike clothing at the city’s playgrounds.
Nike’s ban sparked protests and calls for the mayor to overturn the ordinance. The Urban League of Louisiana questioned the legality of the action and said it was “deeply disappointed”. The organization said it was an opportunity to reflect on the “real reason for the associated protests over kneeling and police brutality” and called on the mayor and city council to immediately rescind the policy.
On Monday evening, a few hundred people, including Cam Jordan, Terron Armstead and Craig Robertson of the New Orleans Saints football team, showed up for a demonstration in Kenner to protest the mayor’s decision.
“It’s too bad we’re here for that,” Jefferson Ward council member Mark Spears told the crowd, according to the New Orleans Advocate. “These policies are illegal.”
Kenner is a town of about 67,000 people in the Parish of Jefferson and is home to the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans.