PROVIDENCE, RI – A Rhode Island city council has voted to ask its departments to refrain from purchasing Nike products, one of the few local governments or agencies that has called for a boycott in recent weeks.
North Smithfield City Council passed the resolution by a 3-2 vote on Monday night, Council Chairman John Beauregard said. The resolution is without engagement.
Beauregard, a former state soldier, is unhappy with Nike’s decision to use former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an advertising campaign. The city administrator was not aware of any specific Nike products that city departments are currently using.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island said the city could be held legally and financially responsible for violating the First Amendment and told council members, “Don’t do it.”
The mayor of a New Orleans suburb recently rescinded a similar directive based on legal advice.
Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn, a Republican, had issued a memo saying Nike products cannot be purchased for use in city recreation facilities. It also required the Director of Parks and Recreation to approve all sports purchases made by recall clubs using the facilities. The order sparked a protest that included three members of the New Orleans Saints from the NFL and hundreds more.
And the Mississippi Chief of Public Safety said over the weekend that state police will no longer buy Nike products, saying Nike does not support law enforcement and the military. It was not immediately clear how much equipment the state police agency purchases from Nike, although the department purchased tactical training shoes, shirts and uniforms from the company. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant praised the decision.
A Nike spokesperson said Monday he could not comment on the various government actions.
Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and social injustice.
Beauregard said he offered to take a stand in North Smithfield because he believed Kaepernick had disrespected the police. He said it was not about kneeling during the hymn.
In a statement released after the vote, the Rhode Island ACLU called the passage of the objects resolution “shameful” for residents who opposed it.
“By attacking the right to peaceful protest and refusing to recognize the racial injustice that motivated it, the resolution shows contempt for both freedom and equality,” the statement said. “Rhode Island is better than this.”