Louisiana Mayor Rescinds Controversial Nike Ban After Facing Backlash: It 'Divided Our City'
Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn says he will allow local facilities to buy Nike products, after initially issuing a ban due to the company's Colin Kaepernick ad
A Louisiana mayor has lifted a ban on Nike products after initially forbidding local facilities from buying items from the brand after the company announced its campaign with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn said in a Wednesday news conference that he meant no harm when he banned the purchase of Nike products at booster clubs and recreation departments in the city. But he walked back the decree after facing criticism from citizens, politicians and local leaders.
“That memorandum divided our city and placed Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage,” he said during the news conference. He added to a reporter, “This was meant to protect our patriot values, our fire our police and also our tax payers.”
Zahn sent the internal memo — which was obtained by the New Orleans Advocate — to the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, Chad Pitfield, on Sept. 5.
In the memo, Zahn said the order was effective immediately, and stated that all purchases made by booster clubs in Kenner must be approved by Pitfield or his designee.
“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,” he added in the initial statement.
Zahn did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.
The memorandum was sent just two days after Nike announced Kaepernick would lead their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. 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 to feature Kaepernick in their campaign sparked a boycott of their products, with many conservatives burning Nike-branded shoes and clothing — and posting photographic evidence online.
Zahn has long been critical of the anthem protest, condemning NFL players who kneel just days before issuing his order, according to CNN. When clarifying the conditions of the memorandum in a statement to the Advocate, Zahn said residents are still allowed to wear Nike apparel on city playgrounds.
“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.”
Now, after canceling the ban, Zahn says he’s eager to put the ordeal behind him.
“I’m looking at the future. I think the future is bringing the city back together. It is time for this to be put aside and for us to move forward as one city.”
Zahn dodged questions about whether he considered the feelings of the black and Latino citizens when issuing the ban. He also did not explain why he decided to condemn Nike’s ad as a “political message” but has not done the same regarding other companies.