Metro, News

Just UnDo It: North Smithfield considers reversing Nike ban

North Smithfield wavers on municipal ban of Nike products following Kaepernick ad campaign

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Following public outcry, the Town Council of North Smithfield in Providence Country, Rhode Island, will vote Sept. 24 on whether or not to recall a recent municipal nonbinding ban of Nike products, according to a press release issued Wednesday by Council President John Beauregard. Beauregard proposed the “Nike Resolution” — passed 3 to 2 Sept. 17 — as a response against the company’s advertising campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality against people of color.

“Nike’s decision … is an insult and slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers throughout this country,” the resolution stated, while citing the 102 police officers killed on duty in the United States so far this year. The resolution requests that the municipality — including schools and police departments — refrain from purchasing Nike products. North Smithfield has no active orders with Nike, according to Town Administrator Gary Ezovski.

The vote Monday could fully repeal the resolution.

“I am not doing this because my views on the subject have changed,” wrote Beauregard, who worked as a state trooper for 25 years. “I am only doing this because of the backlash to my town, the businesses in my town, the schools and all the residents. I don’t want to drag anyone into my fight that did not choose to be in it.” He added that “this resolution had nothing to do with race.”

Public condemnation began Monday at the Town Council meeting, where many attendees accused Beauregard and the Town Council of racial insensitivity.  The R.I.  American Civil Liberties Union and the Providence Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also issued statements rebuking the resolution.

“The message that is sent is that the town of North Smithfield does not care about police brutality and racial inequality,” NAACP Providence President Jim Vincent told The Herald. “They do not care about issues that affect people of color.”

“It’s also political grandstanding,” Vincent added. “Using a town council to express your personal views is just an abuse of power and a waste of taxpayers time and money.”

“We have so many prominent issues to deal with. … Frankly, spending time on this (Nike Resolution) is asinine,” said North Smithfield School Committee Member Arthur Bassett during the Town Council meeting Monday.

“We have worked too hard to let anything compromise our community values or to let anything distract us from working towards what’s best for our students, and that’s what we as a School Committee will continue to do,” wrote School Committee Member Jean Meo in an email to The Herald.

North Smithfield is not the first place to ban Nike products — the town of Kenner, Louisiana and the Mississippi police force have also passed similar resolutions.

“We can only hope that a town as far away from the Mason-Dixon line as North Smithfield, Rhode Island will not be the third,” R.I. ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown wrote in an open letter to the Town Council in the lead-up to passing the Nike Resolution.

The R.I. ACLU has since commended Beauregard for reconsidering the decision.

“If rescinded, this will be a major victory for those who spoke out in favor of freedom of speech!” the R.I. ACLU tweeted.

Recalling the resolution will allow the Town Council to move past the issue and reaffirm its community values, according to School Committee Member Paul Jones.

“We believe in freedom of speech and we believe in being an all-inclusive community,” Jones told The Herald. “This resolution doesn’t define us and it never should have.”

Neither Beauregard nor North Smithfield Superintendent of Schools Michael St. Jean could be reached for comment.