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Just Unban It? N. Smithfield Council Might Recall Nike Resolution Amid Backlash

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North Smithfield's Town Council will revisit a previously approved nonbinding resolution to boycott Nike products because of public backlash.

Town Council President John Beauregard said Wednesday he has called a special meeting for Monday to make a motion to recall the vote, which passed by a 3-2 vote earlier this week.

The resolution brought immediate criticism from the state's NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union, whose director called it "a disdain for both freedom and equality."

Beauregard, a former state trooper, pushed the resolution after Nike used former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an ad campaign.

He said he believes the resolution "had nothing to do with race" and his views haven't changed, but says he doesn't want to drag anyone into his fight that didn't choose to be in it.

Just Ban It? N. Smithfield Votes To Boycott Nike

During a meeting Monday, the North Smithfield Town Council voted to ask its municipal departments to refrain from purchasing Nike products, one of a handful of local governments or agencies that have called for boycotts in recent weeks.

The council voted 3-2 for a resolution to refrain from purchasing Nike products in response to an ads campaign with former NFL quarterback Colin Kapernick. Kaepernick began the movement of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against racial inequality and police brutality.

John Beauregard, North Smithfield Town Council president and former state trooper, said he’s upset with Nike’s decision to feature Kaepernick. Beauregard said he proposed taking a stance in North Smithfield because he feels Kaepernick has been disrespectful toward police. He said it's not about kneeling during the anthem.

Rhode Island ACLU Director Steve Brown said the resolution could be a First Amendment violation.

"For a town to be deciding what contracts or business it’s going to be working with based on the business’ political views or actions and that’s exactly what this is about and we think it’s inappropriate," Brown said.

"The idea that Republicans or Democrats might suddenly find their businesses frozen out of contracts in the town because of their political beliefs is very problematic. But, it’s a natural consequence if someone accepts the view that the town can do this to Nike products," he said. 

He said taxpayers could be on the hook if any legal action is taken for violating Nike’s First Amendment rights.

In response to the vote Brown called the resolution's passage over the objects of residents who opposed it as "shameful." He said, "by punishing the right to peacefully protest and refusing to recognize the racial injustice prompting that protest, the resolution shows a disdain for both freedom and equality. Rhode Island is better than this."




Nike's ad featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick
Nike's ad featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick
BRUCE DETORRES / FLICKR