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Rhode Island town passes resolution to boycott Nike products

"There seems to be, in some elements of society, a war on police."

A Nike Ad featuring American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick on display September 8, 2018 in New York City.  (Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
A Nike Ad featuring American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick on display September 8, 2018 in New York City. (Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

Some burned their Nike sneakers, others cut up their Nike socks. But a Rhode Island town took things one step further Monday, voting to pass a resolution to boycott Nike products, after the company decided to use former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of its 30-year anniversary “Just Do It” ad campaign.

The North Smithfield Town Council is the latest local government or agency to consider such a measure, joining a New Orleans suburb and a Mississippi police agency in vowing not to purchase Nike products (the New Orleans directive was rescinded last week, after drawing criticism from people in and out of the city).

The council voted 3-2 on the non-binding resolution to call on its departments not to purchase Nike products, according to the Associated Press, with council president John Beauregard claiming that Kaepernick has perpetuated a culture of disrespect toward police and perpetuated the myth that police officers are out to kill minorities.

“This has nothing to do with taking a knee, or any athletes taking a knee ” Beauregard, a former police officer, told a radio station Monday. “There seems to be, in some elements of society, a war on police.… They’re throwing gas on the fire by using Kaepernick’s image.”

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The radio host added that Kaepernick is “not a role model, he hasn’t sacrificed anything,” like the families of law enforcement. “Correct,” Beauregard replied.

As ThinkProgress has reported time and time again, Kaepernick’s protests, and those of other NFL players who have kneeled during the national anthem, are not intended to “disrespect” the police, but rather, in Kaepernick’s own words, aim to raise awareness about the “lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex.”

By arguing that individuals who express outrage about police brutality are disrespecting police, Beauregard overlooks the the systemic racism that contributes to the deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police officers. Instead, Beauregard and supporters of the resolution say that cops are the ones who are most vulnerable, an argument that is often used to defend police who kill unarmed Black men and women.   

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has warned that the town may be violating the First Amendment.

“By attacking the right to peacefully protest and refusing to recognize the racial injustice prompting it, the resolution shows a disdain for both freedom and equality,” the Rhode Island ACLU said in a statement. “Rhode Island is better than this.”

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The Rhode Island resolution likely won’t make a dent in Nike’s bottom line. Days after Nike announced Kaepernick as the face of their campaign, the company’s stock closed at $83.47, an all-time high.