Louisiana Town Mayor Lifts Nike Ban After Protests

The mayor of a Louisiana city who had banned Nike products following the company's decision to make Colin Kaepernick the main testimonial of its latest campaign has backed off and lifted the restriction.

Last week, incumbent Republican and Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn told his recreational staff to no longer purchase any products that show the Nike logo.

The move came after the sporting apparel giant chose Kaepernick to be the lead testimonial of its "Just Do It" 30th-anniversary campaign.

"Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything," read the slogan under a black-and-white picture of the former 49ers quarterback.

The decision was criticized by a number of political commentators and Nike customers alike, who have accused Kaepernick of disrespecting the flag since he chose to kneel during the national anthem in 2016.

On September 5, two days after the campaign was unveiled, Zahn banned the use of the city's financial resources to purchase Nike products.

"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," read a leaked memorandum that posted on Twitter by Democratic political activist Donna Brazile, who criticized the ban.

Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick appears as the face of Nike’s campaign marking the 30th anniversary of its “Just do it” slogan in this image released by Nike, on September 4. The mayor of a Louisiana city who had banned Nike products in protest has lifted the restriction. Courtesy Nike/Handout via Reuters

However, the embargo has since been lifted. According to The New Orleans Times-Picayune, Zahn said he had opted to rescind the ban following the advice of the city attorney. Zahn admitted it had "placed Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage."

Upon announcing Nike's signature swoosh logo would again be welcomed in Kenner, Zahn also expressed the hope the decision would bring "this city back together. "

Kenner's short-lived Nike ban attracted widespread criticism and the threat of legal action. On September 12, the American Civil Liberties Union described the ban as a violation of the First Amendment and an insult to freedom of expression.

"The policy banning booster clubs from purchasing Nike products is a textbook First Amendment violation, and the mayor would be wise to rescind it immediately," Brian Hauss, staff attorney with the ACLU's Free Speech, Privacy and Technology Project was quoted as saying by The New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Meanwhile, a number of local residents accused the mayor of implementing the ban to divide the community. The stance was echoed by Kenner's Thomas United Methodist Church, which said it was "deeply saddened" by Zahn's decision to implement the ban.

The religious institution, which was established in Kenner 135 years ago, launched a petition against the ban, which has gathered over 1,500 signatures in just four days.

Since Nike unveiled the campaign, it has been subject to a backlash on social media, with Twitter users posting videos of their burning their Nike sneakers to protest against the choice of Kaepernick as lead testimonial.

President Donald Trump also touched on the #BoycottNike campaign, warning the sporting apparel giant would suffer a sharp decline in sales as a result of its actions. Trump also criticized the campaign for "sending a terrible message."

Conversely, however, the campaign also received plenty of support, both from high-profile figures such as LeBron James and from customers who vowed to buy more Nike apparel to support the company's decision to choose Kaepernick as the face of the campaign.