In the wake of Nike revealing Colin Kaepernick as the face of the 30th anniversary of the “Just Do It” campaign, haters have been out in full force to express their displeasure at Nike having the unmitigated gall to celebrate a man who was brave enough to assert his First Amendment rights in the face of constant, consistent criticism and ostracism.
Everyone from Donald Trump to regular people on Twitter had something negative to say about the ad, and it makes you wonder just what it is they have against a black man exercising his right to speak up for himself and his people. Why do they insist on “silencing” a protest against inequality and racism? Why is this the thing that is driving everyone crazy?
The latest example of this inanity is happening right now in Kenner, La.—a suburb of New Orleans. The Washington Post reports that Mayor Ben Zahn sent out a private memo on Sept. 5 in which he wrote “Effective immediately all purchases made by any booster club operating at any Kenner Recreation Facility for wearing apparel, shoes, athletic equipment and/or any athletic product must be approved by the Director of Parks and Recreation, or his designee. 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.”
This is the same Mayor Zahn who reportedly told the gathered crowd prior to the performance of the national anthem at the Sept. 2 Freedom Fest at the Lake in Kenner, “She’s going to come out and do our national anthem because this is not the NFL football players, right? This is the city of Kenner. In the city of Kenner we all stand.”
Imagine being an elected official—that is, an official that was elected into a position via this country’s democratic process—who is a blatant hypocrite when it comes to a basic component of this country’s democracy. Keep in mind that freedom of speech is one of the bricks this country was built on.
Zahn’s decree was met with a fair amount of backlash.
Kenner City Councilman Gregory Carroll responded to the memo on Facebook Sunday and wrote, “Last night a disturbing memorandum was circulated that the city of Kenner Mayor E. Ben Zahn wrote to the Kenner Recreation Director, directing him, regarding Booster Club Purchases, banning Nike products, usage or delivery of all Kenner Recreational Facilities. 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. I will meet with the Mayor and other Council members in an effort to rescind this directive. I will keep the citizens of Kenner, and the Greater New Orleans area informed as we move forward.”
On Monday, a group of activists that included Cam Jordan and Terron Armstead gathered at Susan Park Playground in Kenner and expressed their displeasure with the directive. Community members and local politicians alike urged those gathered to make their voices heard by voting in the upcoming midterm elections.
By Monday afternoon, Zahn decided it was time to “clarify” his position, so he released a statement which said, “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. This government will not let taxpayer dollars be used to promote a company’s or individual’s political position, platform or principle. That’s my position as a matter of fairness to all.”
Translation: “I am bothered by both this black man’s nerve to speak up for himself as well as this company’s choice to amplify his voice. This is my political belief, and I am going to impose it on all of you while simultaneously claiming it is in an effort to prevent political messages from being spread on taxpayer dollars. No, I don’t see the irony in my taking that stance.”