City of Kenner bans purchase of Nike products, mayor decries Nike’s ‘political message’

KENNER - Booster clubs in the City of Kenner are now forbidden to buy any Nike products.

Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn sent out a memo on September 5 with the new directive, a day after Nike made headlines by introducing Colin Kaepernick as one of the faces of its “Just Do It” 30th anniversary ad campaign.

Now the memo, which was addressed to Parks and Recreation director Chad Pitfield, is making headlines itself for the apparent political motivation behind the ban.

“Effective immediately all purchases made by any booster club at any Kenner Recreation Facility for wearing apparel, shoes, athletic equipment, and/or any athletic product must be approved by the Director of Parks and Recreation, or his designee,” the memo reads. “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.”

The City of Kenner has confirmed the authenticity of the memo.

Kenner City Councilman Gregory Carroll has said he wants to meet with Zahn to discuss the memo.

Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback and outspoken social activist, began the #takeaknee protests during the playing of the National Anthem before NFL games.

President Trump declared that the protest was disrespectful to the American flag, leading to boycotts of NFL games and other protests last season.

Despite the controversial choice of Kaepernick for the new ad campaign, or perhaps because of it, Nike has reported a significant spike in online sales since the ads premiered.

However, none of those sales have apparently come from the City of Kenner.

Zahn issued the following statement regarding the memo:

"Private, for-profit companies have every right to advertise how they wish, even if it means using advertising to promote corporate political beliefs. Individuals also have every right to support or oppose any company or brand for any reason. Those freedoms should never be lost.

I applaud Nike’s message of inclusion and encouragement for everyone to be their best and dream big. But I also recognize that Nike, in its zeal to sell shoes, chose to promote and sell a political message.

In Kenner, like every city, our citizens and our taxpayers cover a wide spectrum of political philosophies and agendas. We must respect all of those agendas and philosophies. So, when a company uses its advertising as its own political megaphone, government should be fair to all of its people and not allow taxpayer dollars to be used to help that company push its own political agenda.

My decision is only to protect taxpayer dollars from being used in a political campaign. Some have asked if people will be allowed to wear Nike apparel on city playgrounds. The answer to that is … of course.

My internal memo draws the line on letting companies profit from taxpayers by espousing political beliefs. My decision disallowing Nike from profiting from our taxpayers while they are using their powerful voice as a political tool is my message. This government will not let taxpayer dollars be used to promote a company’s or individual’s political position, platform or principle. That’s my position as a matter of fairness to all."

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued her own statement against Zahn's decison.

"As I have emphasized repeatedly since taking office: I believe in the values the people of New Orleans stand for -- being inclusive, being accepting and supportive of all our people, committing to social justice, and being intentional about how we make decisions,” Cantrell said. "The mandate handed down by Kenner’s mayor is out of step with those values, and not reflective of the way our City does business. Although the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is located in Kenner, it is owned and governed by the City of New Orleans. Let me assure you that our airport will continue to uphold our City's values.”