The mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, released an internal memo banning the purchase of Nike products at booster clubs and recreation departments the day after the company announced their partnership with former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
Mayor Ben Zahn’s memo — which was obtained by the New Orleans Advocate — was sent to the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, Chad Pitfield, soon after Nike announced Kaepernick would lead their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign.
“Effective immediately all purchases made by any booster club operating at a Kenner Recreation facility for wearing apparel, shoes, athletic equipment, and/or any athletic product must be approved by the Director of Parks and Recreation, or his designee,” wrote Zahn, whose office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
“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.”
Kaepernick has become the preeminent voice in protesting police brutality since he began kneeling during the national anthem as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in September 2016.
Nike’s decision sparked a boycott of their products, as many conservatives burnt Nike-branded shoes and clothing, then posted photographic evidence on social media. But what also found its way to social media was Zahn’s private memo, and local politicians were not happy about being kept in the dark about the ban.
It disappoints me that this is happening in my state. The Mayor of Kenner is trying to ban all Nike apparel and equipment from children’s sports and playgrounds. I would like to have a conversation with him when i return from this European Tour. Not to fuss, just to build. pic.twitter.com/gRCoCN3nQP
— Dee-1; IG @dee1music (@Dee1music) September 9, 2018
“I was not made aware of this decision beforehand and it is in direct contradiction of what I stand for and what the city of Kenner should stand for,” Councilman Gregory Carroll wrote on Facebook, as noted by CNN. “I am 100% AGAINST this decision. I will meet with the mayor and other council members in an effort to rescind this directive. I will keep the citizens of Kenner, and the Greater New Orleans area informed as we move forward.”
On Monday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell released a statement that stated Zahn’s Nike ban was not in line with “the values the people of New Orleans stand for.”
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 5, 2018
“Although the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is located in Kenner, it is owned and governed by the City of New Orleans,” Cantrell wrote. “Let me assure you that our airport will continue to uphold our City’s values.”
In a statement to the Advocate on Monday, Zahn claimed his ban on Nike products was meant to keep taxpayers’ dollars from being used “to promote and sell a political message.”
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“I applaud Nike’s message of inclusion and encouragement for everyone to be their best and dream big. But I also recognize that Nike, in its zeal to sell shoes, chose to promote and sell a political message,” Zahn said. “When a company uses its advertising as its own political megaphone, government should be fair to all of its people and not allow taxpayer dollars to be used to help that company push its own political agenda.”
Zahn also clarified that residents are still allowed to wear Nike apparel on city playgrounds — something he says many people have inquired about after the memo went public.
“This government will not let taxpayer dollars be used to promote a company’s or individual’s political position, platform or principle,” he said. “That’s my position as a matter of fairness to all.”
CNN reported that Zahn has previously criticized Kaepernick and NFL players who have kneeled to protest police brutality.
On Sunday, Miami Dolphins players Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson kneeled when the national anthem played at the start of their game against the Tennessee Titans, becoming the first players to do so on the field during the 2018 to 2019 season.
“My Brothers @kstills and @ithinkisee12 continue to show their unwavering strength by fighting for the oppressed!” Kaepernick tweeted following the demonstration. “They have not backed down, even when attacked and intimidated. Their courage will move the world forward!”
Since Nike announced their partnership with Kaepernick, sales have increased 31 percent.