Anti-Nike Policy Passes in North Smithfield, Sparks Strong Reaction

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

 

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Colin Kaepernick, Nike spokesperson

The North Smithfield Town Council voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution Monday night requesting the town and school department refrain from purchasing Nike products, after Colin Kaepernick became the recent face of the company. 

In an interview with GoLocalProv, Town Council President and former Rhode Island State Trooper John Beauregard - who introduced the resolution - said it had to do with Kaepernick's "disdain for police."

NAACP Providence Branch President Jim Vincent said following the vote that he did not agree with the rationale. 

"I don’t buy that. It’s about race," said Vincent. "Police brutality. Racial inequality. Full stop. End of conversation."

"To add anything else is disingenuous," said Vincent. "It sends a wrong message to the country."

Vote -- and Reaction

Beauregard, Council Vice President Paul Zwolenski, and Councilwoman Claire O'Hara voted in favor of the resolution on Monday. 

"The reason I'm doing it is the person Nike has to put forward to represent their company has a great deal of disdain for police," Beauregard told GoLocal. "He's worn socks depicting the police as pigs." 

Council members Thomas McGee and Terri Bartomioli voted against the resolution. 

And while Beauregard stressed the resolution would be a "request" and not a "demand," the Rhode Island ACLU said there could still be grounds for legal action. 

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Jim Vincent, Providence Chapter of the NAACP

"The resolution is a request -- it is not a demand the town not purchase Nike, or the school department not purchase Nike," said Beauregard Monday morning. "I'm requesting that they do it -- if they chose to go forward and do it, there won't be any repercussions. It's simply a request." 

The ACLU, however, in a statement said that if the town took action in accordance with the now-passed resolution, it could trigger a legal response. 

"We recognize that the Town Council is free to express its views, however questionable they may be, on important political issues of the day. We further assume that, since it is only a resolution, the Town Council’s passage of this agenda item will not have any directly binding effect on either the school committee or municipal departments in deciding whether to purchase Nike products.

But to the extent any of the Town’s municipal agencies decide to take action consistent with the resolution, the Town and its taxpayers will face both legal and financial liability for violating the First Amendment. A government agency simply cannot ban the purchase of products from a company based solely on its political views."

And social media erupted following Monday's vote. 

Rhode Island native and actress Barbara Lee posted the following to Facebook:

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Councilman Beauregard

"North Smithfield FYI Nike doesn’t need your little town just saying!!!!! For the record the 3-2 vote was made by John A. Beauregard, Paul Zwolenski and Claire O'Hara all voted for this please tell your friends and all are on the ballot this November!!! #boycottnorthsmithfield #nikerocks #colinkaepernick #takeaknee #buyingmemorenike #standforsomething #shameonyouNSCityCouncil"

"The Town of North Smithfield should not want to send the wrong message to Rhode Islanders as well as to the rest of the nation that the town is insensitive to these issues," said Vincent. 

"At this time in our country, we are divided enough and do not need Rhode Islanders sending out a divisive and negative message to communities of color, particularly the black community, both within this state and around the nation!" added Vincent. 

 
 

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