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ACLU calls for Louisiana mayor to overturn ban on Nike for recreation programs
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling on a Louisiana mayor to overturn a policy that bans the city's recreation department from purchasing any Nike products.
The ACLU and the ACLU of Louisiana made the demand on Wednesday in a letter sent to Kenner City Mayor Ben Zahn (R), saying that the move violates the First Amendment.
"You sought to ban Nike products to avoid promoting what you termed the brand's 'political agenda,' " ACLU states a letter posted on its website. "This letter is to advise you that your actions are unconstitutional, and we strongly urge you to rescind your policy.
"The policy violates the First Amendment's prohibition against content and viewpoint discrimination because it prevents booster clubs and their members from purchasing, for use at Kenner facilities, types of apparel that you have targeted as political expression."
Zahn declared last week in a memo that "under no circumstances" should Nike products or any product with the Nike logo be purchased by Kenner's recreation department. He also mandated that every booster club operating at city recreation facilities have their purchases approved by the parks and recreation department.
The memo was released just days after Nike featured NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick in its new "Just Do It" campaign.
After reports leaked about the memo, Zahn doubled down on why the policy was put in place.
"I applaud Nike's message of inclusion and encouragement for everyone to be their best and dream big," Zahn said in a statement this week, according to The New Orleans Advocate. "But I also recognize that Nike, in its zeal to sell shoes, chose to promote and sell a political message."
Zahn added that Nike could advertise in whatever way they wanted. But he said that government agencies should not endorse an agenda.
But the ACLU has contended that the argument "falls flat."
"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," the ACLU wrote in a separate post on its website.
Zahn's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
Kaepernick became a widely controversial figure after he became the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice in 2016. He has yet to be signed by an NFL franchise since his contract with the San Francisco 49ers ended following the 2016 season.
The decision from Nike to make Kaepernick the face of its new campaign sparked notable controversy, with President Trump one of the many people to deride the advertising campaign.
Nike's online sales surged following Nike's release of the campaign.