Louisiana Mayor Caves on Attempted Ban of Nike Products

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Mayor E. "Ben" Zahn III rescinded his policy barring the city of Kenner's booster clubs from buying or accepting delivery of Nike products at the city's recreation facilities. 

The mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, doesn’t seem to like Colin Kaepernick much. He also doesn’t seem too happy that the sports merchandise juggernaut Nike made Kaepernick the face of its new “Dream Crazy” campaign. But instead of simply expressing his personal opinion, he’s trying to use the power of his public office to prevent others from expressing their support for Colin Kaepernick. 

And that’s unconstitutional. 

On September 5, Kenner Mayor E. “Ben” Zahn III issued a memorandum prohibiting private booster clubs operating at Kenner recreation facilities from buying or accepting delivery of any product with the company’s famous swoosh symbol. “Under no circumstances,” the memo reads, “will any Nike product or any product with the Nike logo be purchased for use or delivery at any City of Kenner Recreation Facility.” Under the new policy, the city’s director of parks and recreation must approve any athletic product or apparel before a booster club can purchase them. 

On Wednesday, the ACLU and the ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter to Mayor Zahn informing him that his actions violate the First Amendment and advising him to rescind his policy immediately. We have taken this action because Zahn’s policy violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on content and viewpoint discrimination. It prevents booster clubs from purchasing Nike’s products based solely on the mayor’s opposition to Nike’s political expression.

How do we know this? Because Zahn said so himself.

After his policy caused a furor both locally and nationally, the mayor issued a follow-up statement on September 11. According to Zahn, he implemented his Nike ban because the company, “in its zeal to sell shoes, chose to promote and sell a political message.” The mayor couldn’t be any clearer. His policy is directed at the political message communicated by Nike and those who wear Nike apparel.

And no one should lose sight of what that message is. Kaepernick lost his job as a quarterback in the NFL because he has the temerity to kneel during the national anthem. Kaepernick has explained that he took a knee to protest rampant police brutality and discrimination against people of color across the United States. By doing so, he sparked the “Take-a-Knee” movement, which continues today

Zahn argues that his policy is an attempt “only to protect taxpayer dollars from being used in a political campaign.” This argument falls flat. While Kenner booster clubs receive city funds, they also raise their money from private sources, and the city has no legitimate interest in dictating which companies, causes, or “political agendas” booster clubs may support with their own money.

There is only one plausible conclusion for the mayor’s actions: He is trying to stop booster clubs from symbolically expressing their support for political views the mayor detests. That’s a textbook First Amendment violation.

Mayor Zahn, rescind your unconstitutional policy. Just do it.

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Anonymous

First, All Nike's products display their corporate logo, making them advertisements. Advertisements are not protected by the first amendment.

Second, Any apparel or wearable tech that reduces the human being from a person to a walking advertisement is obscene,

David

Might wanna re-up your COMM LAW training. Advertising and trademarks have had 1st amendment protection for a long time now!

Anonymous

The worst part of this is that he was "ELECTED"! PEOPLE ACTUALLY VOTED FOR THIS IDIOT.

Anonymous

Just crazy how these people feels like he is disrespecting the flag, which he's not. If they aim the camera in the shyboxes I'm quite sure you see all the partying going on while the anthem is being played. We all have seen video after video of cops beating and killing people of color. And not one of you said a word about that.

Dennis Covey

Kaepernick didn't lose his job as a quarterback because he protested. He lost his job because he was playing lousy football.

Math works!

The demographics say he is on the wrong side of trends.
In 2013 the racial makeup of the city was 48.8% White, 24.0% African American, 22.4% Hispanic or Latino, 0.4% Native American, 3.7% Asian, 3.80% from other races, and 2.24% from two or more races.
In 2000 the racial makeup of the city is 68.12% White, 22.55% African American, 0.40% Native American, 2.84% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 3.80% from other races, and 2.24% from two or more races. 13.62% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Bumfun

Cooooooolest Mayor evaaaaa! Rock on Mayor Zahn

Anonymous

The best response is for defenders of the U.S. Constitution - ACLU members, Tea Party members and other Constitution lovers - to go out and buy Nike products and vote with our dollars. It's more powerful than electoral voting! As for the mayor, as a condition of holding and retaining authority, he voluntarily agreed to an Oath of Office to follow the U.S. Constitution - which includes Article VI and the First Amendment. The mayor swore a loyalty oath to protect the First Amendment!

Anonymous

I'm pleased the ACLU has taken up this issue. This mayor needs to have a long discussion with his legal department about this as I highly doubt he understands the constitutional implications of his decision. There is also the possibility that he simply doesn't care. I hope that isn't the case.

AnonymouS

As he represents Republicans, the constitutional implications are not considered important -- they use fake news to usurp them.

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