UPDATE: Mayor E. “Ben” Zahn III on Wednesday rescinded his policy prohibiting Kenner town recall clubs from purchasing or accepting delivery of Nike products at town recreation facilities.
The mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, doesn’t seem to like Colin Kaepernick very much. He also doesn’t seem very happy that the sporting goods juggernaut Nike has made Kaepernick the face of his new “Dream Crazy” campaign. But instead of just expressing his personal opinion, he tries to use the power of his public service to prevent others from expressing support for Colin Kaepernick.
And it is unconstitutional.
On September 5, the mayor of Kenner E. “Ben” Zahn III issued a memorandum prohibiting private recall clubs operating at Kenner recreation facilities from purchasing or accepting delivery of any product bearing the famous swoosh symbol. of the company. “Under no circumstances,” the memo reads, “will a Nike product or product bearing the Nike logo be purchased for use or delivery to a Kenner Town Recreation Center.” Under the new policy, the city’s director of parks and recreation must approve any athletic product or clothing before a recall club can purchase them.
The Louisiana ACLU and ACLU on Wednesday sent a letter to Mayor Zahn informing him that his actions violate the First Amendment and advising him to rescind his policy immediately. We took this action because Zahn’s policy violates the First Amendment ban on content and viewpoint discrimination. It prevents recall clubs from purchasing Nike products solely on the basis of the mayor’s opposition to Nike’s political expression.
How do we know this? Because Zahn said so himself.
After his policies became all the rage 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 political message. The mayor could not be clearer. His politics are directed. against the political message communicated by Nike and those who wear Nike clothes.
And no one should lose sight of what this message is. Kaepernick lost his job as a quarterback in the NFL because he had the temerity to kneel down during the national anthem. Kaepernick has Explain that he knelt down to protest rampant police brutality and discrimination against people of color across the United States. In doing so, he sparked the ‘Take-a-Knee’ movement, which continue today.
Zahn argues that his policy is an attempt “only to protect taxpayer money from being used in a political campaign.” This argument falls flat. While the Kenner booster clubs receive funds from the city, they also raise their funds from private sources, and the city has no legitimate interest in dictating which businesses, causes or “political agendas” the booster clubs can support with their. own money.
There is only one plausible conclusion for the mayor’s actions: he tries to prevent recall clubs from symbolically expressing support for political views the mayor hates. This is a violation of the First Amendment manual.
Mayor Zahn, reverse your unconstitutional policy. Do it.