Posted: September 13, 2018
By Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
KENNER, La. —
A Louisiana mayor has backpedaled on his controversial order to not allow the city’s recreation department to buy Nike products for the city rec facilities.
Ben Zahn, mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, had issued a memo that banned the purchase of Nike equipment after the athletic company started an ad campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has been at the center of the debate of sports stars who take a knee during the national anthem as protest against police brutality and social injustice, NBC News reported.
Zahn announced Wednesday that he rescinded the order on the advice of the city’s attorney. He also hopes to bring the city back together again after the memo “placed Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage,” NOLA.com reported.
Zahn, however, did not apologize for the policy, NOLA.com reported.
Last week, Zahn issued the order that Nike products could not be bought for the city’s recreation facilities and it required that the parks and recreation director approve athletic purchases by booster clubs that used the city facilities.
Kaepernick was not mentioned in the memo.
“We’re pleased the mayor reconsidered his divisive stance and rescinded this unconstitutional policy,” Alanah Odoms Herbert, the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, told NOLA.com. “The reversal of this ban is good news for the people of Kenner and all Louisianians, who have a constitutional right to express their political views free from government censorship or discrimination.”
A private Christian college in Missouri said it would “choose its country over company” and remove all athletic uniforms bought from Nike or those that contain the Nike logo, KMBC reported.
The College of the Ozarks, which is an NAIA school in Point Lookout, made the announcement in a release Wednesday. The college was responding to Nike’s 30th anniversary advertising campaign that features former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee before the national anthem during the 2016 season to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
“In their new ad campaign, we believe Nike executives are promoting an attitude of division and disrespect toward America," College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis said in a statement. "If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them.
“We also believe that those who know what sacrifice is all about are more likely to be wearing a military uniform than an athletic uniform."
Nike has retained Kaepernick on its endorsement roster since signing him in 2011. He has not appeared in any of the brand's ads since 2016, KTRK reported.
"We believe Colin is one of the most inspirational athletes of this generation, who has leveraged the power of sport to help move the world forward," Gino Fisanotti, Nike's vice president of brand for North America, told ESPN.
Kaepernick is suing the NFL for allegedly colluding to keep him out of the league, KTRK reported. An arbitrator sent Kaepernick's grievance with the NFL to trial, the television station reported.
In October 2017, the College of the Ozarks changed its contracts for all sports, adding a stipulation that all players and coaches show respect for the American flag and national anthem. KMBC reported.
Despite some early backlash and a slight dip in sales, Nike’s online sales increased by 31 percent from Sunday through Tuesday of this week, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The company introduced controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” advertising campaign. President Donald Trump, police officers and many football fans objected to the choice, arguing that Kaepernick taking a knee to protest police brutality and racial injustice was out of line.
The ad, released Monday and featured on television for the first time during Thursday’s NFL opener between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons, featured a close-up, black-and-white image of Kaepernick with the words, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
On Friday, San Francisco-based Edison Trends revealed that after an initial drop in sales, Nike recovered strongly. Its 31 percent rise is nearly double its 17 percent gain over the same time period in 2017.
“There was speculation that the Nike/Kaepernick campaign would lead to a drop in sales,” Edison Trends co-founder Hetal Pandya said in a statement. “The data does not support that theory.”
But after Nike’s stock fell 3.9 percent to touch a low of $79 per share on Tuesday, it rebounded to end the week at $80.30 per share, The New York Post reported.
The mayor of Kenner has issued a directive banning booster clubs from buying any Nike athletic apparel or equipment for use at city recreation centers.
Mayor Ben Zahn sent the letter Sept. 5 to Kenner parks and recreation director Chad Pitfield.
“Under no circumstances will any Nike product or any product with the Nike logo be purchased for use or delivery at any City of Kenner Recreation Facility,” Zahn wrote, WDSU reported.
Nike released an advertisement campaign Sept. 3 featuring embattled former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 season to bring attention to racial injustice. He has not played in the NFL since that season.
Although the company has faced some backlash, online sales for Nike went up 31 percent after the campaign launched.
Zahn never referenced the ad campaign in his letter.
A spokesperson with the city did not comment to WVUE about the directive.
Councilman Gregory Carroll called the letter disturbing.
“I was not made aware of this decision beforehand and it is in direct contradiction of what I stand for,” Carroll said in a statement posted on Facebook. “I will meet with the mayor and other council members in an effort to rescind this directive.”
New jerseys supporting Colin Kaepernick are sold out hours after being announced for presale, and he’s still a free agent in the NFL.
USA Today reported that Kaepernick announced that jerseys with “#IMWITHKAP” across the front were up for presale Monday. They have the athlete and activist’s number, 7, on the back, as well as his last name.
Kaepernick posted on Twitter that a portion of proceeds for the limited edition jerseys, which sold for $99.99 in youth sizes and $174.99 in adult unisex sizes, will benefit the Know Your Rights Camp. The campaign, founded by Kaepernick, raises awareness on self improvement and education and provides instructions on how to properly interact with law enforcement in varying situations.
This is the latest in activism and awareness work for Kaepernick. He is the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary of the brand’s “Just Do It” campaign, and appeared in a commercial for the brand that aired during the NFL season opener game Thursday. Since the campaign was announced, online Nike sales are up 31 percent, despite a number of boycotts across the country.
Even those who live in Georgia may not have heard of Truett McConnell University, but this week, the private Southern Baptist college in Cleveland, Georgia, joined the national response of some to Nike’s ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick.
Emir Caner, the president of Truett McConnell, announced Friday that the university would cut ties with the global apparel company, which supplies university T-shirts and other goods to the campus bookstore.
Caner, who took over at Truett McConnell in 2008, is a former Muslim and well-known in conservative religious circles as a defender of Christianity.
“America has sacrificially given my family the freedoms we enjoy today,” Caner said in a statement Friday. “My wife, who was raised under the oppression of socialistic communism, became a citizen five years ago, joyfully pledging allegiance to these United States and her flag.
“For Nike to then hire Colin Kaepernick, a person known for wearing pigs on his socks, mocking law enforcement, kneeling against our flag and mocking our troops, is reprehensible to my family and to the Truett McConnell family.”
Caner did not returns calls from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for comment on this story.
The Nike ban will primarily impact the campus book store, where between $10,000 and $20,000 worth of Nike-branded school T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts are sold annually.
Nike’s new Kaepernick ad, which debuted on TV last week and has been posted on billboards around the country, shows the former Super Bowl quarterback with the words, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
On the day after the company announced that Kaepernick would be the face of the “Just Do It,” campaign, Nike lost $4 billion in market value. But by Monday afternoon, stock prices were up 2 percent and the company was trading at $81.80, returning to pre-Kaepernick levels. Online sales increased by 31 percent Sunday through Tuesday last week.
Following the ad’s release, Springfield News-Leader reported that another small school, College of the Ozarks, in Point Lookout, Missouri, also banned Nike. At a weekend women’s volleyball match, the team wore plain gray T-shirts with the school’s name printed on the back.
President Donald Trump, who has been a vocal opponent of Kaepernick and the fact that NFL players have been kneeling, tweeted his opposition to Nike.
Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and a close ally of Trump, told USA Today Sports Friday that the Kaepernick decision might cause the college to reconsider its relationship with Nike.
“If Nike really does believe that law enforcement in this country is unfair and biased, I think we will look around,” Falwell said. “If we have a contract, we’ll honor it, but we strongly support law enforcement and strongly support our military and veterans who died to protect our freedoms and if the company really believes what Colin Kaepernick believes, it’s going to be hard for us to keep doing business with them.”
Last year, Fallwell signed a lengthy deal with Nike through 2024.
Kenner, Louisiana, Mayor Ben Zahn III issued a Sept. 5 memo banning the purchase and use of any Nike products at the city’s booster clubs and recreation departments.
In a statement released Monday, Zahn said the ban would protect the city's taxpayers from promoting Nike’s political agenda.
“My internal memo draws the line on letting companies profit from taxpayers by espousing political beliefs. My decision disallowing Nike from profiting from our taxpayers while they are using their powerful voice as a political tool is my message,” Zahn said. “This government will not let taxpayer dollars be used to promote a company’s or individual’s political position, platform or principle,” the statement said. “That's my position as a matter of fairness to all.”
Caner said that although students will still be allowed to wear Nike on campus, all of the profits from the remaining Nike gear sold in the campus store will be donated to Wounded Warriors and the Fraternal Order of Police.
“If Nike chooses to apologize to our troops and to our law enforcement officers, then -- and only then -- will TMU reconsider their brand,” Caner said. “In the meanwhile, let us honor true heroes, those who protect us daily, some even sacrificing their own lives. They are the true heroes.”
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