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UPDATE: On Wednesday, Mayor E. "Ben" Zahn III rescinded his policy barring the city of Kenner's booster clubs from buying or accepting delivery of Nike products at the city's recreation facilities.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

Duck you!

Anonymous

As a Christian great grandmother with a brother and father that served in the Military, I have decided to support the silent protestors trying to bring attention to an issue that needs to be addressed and and not let myself be deceived or manipulated to think it anything else, especially by someone trying to cause division , hate and distraction from the real issue at hand, making protesters look like unethical individuals who hate law enforcement, military or any one race for the obvious sole purpose of their own agenda. We have come so far for equity and opportunity in America to stop now or worse, to regress after all the courageous efforts made by others before us that helped pave the way. It reminds me of people marching for peace back in the day , were made out to look like they were against the military because they were against war. Being told what you can or cannot buy in clothing is unamerican!

Daniel

I wonder your opinion on states that ban travel to other states that they disagree with their policies on certain issues. You're talking about a public elected official prohibiting activity based on a political belief. So when New York does not allow any of their school teams to go to states that have anti gay legislation is that equatable the situation? Is it something you also opposed? And for the heck of it, could a city council. Or mayor ban The purchasing of any item with an Nazi logo or would that be unconstitutional as well

Anonymous

Why conflate this to the State level, the article is about a mayor in Louisiana.

Joanna

Thank goodness for the ACLU! Donate to them!

Anonymous

Unless the Mayor is buying and paying for these shoes with his own money, he is way out of line.

Orange Toast

So, banning sneakers/shirts is a violation of the 1st amendment, but banning guns is NOT a violation of the 2nd amendment? What a one way world you live in....

Anonymous

who banned guns? sensible gun control does not equate to gun bans...quit fear mongering

Blatantone

Not all guns should be banned.

Andrew Larson

It always amazes me how people love everything about america, it's laws, and the constitution, but half the time only truly enforce the "rules" when it suits their purpose or is akin to their opinions and likes.

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