KENNER – Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn’s ban on booster clubs purchasing Nike products violates the Constitution, according to the ACLU.
ACLU of Louisiana executive director Alanah Odoms Hebert sent a letter to Zahn demanding he immediately rescind his order, which went into effect on September 5, one day after Nike launched an ad campaign featuring #takeaknee creator and activist Colin Kaepernick, among others.
“The city’s recreation facilities should be open to everyone — not just those who happen to subscribe to the mayor’s political beliefs,” Odoms Hebert said. “The mayor doesn’t have to agree with Nike’s ad campaign, but he has no business dictating which political causes people support or where people can buy their gym shorts.”
Zahn released a statement outlining his position on September 10.
In part, Zahn’s statement said that he applauds “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.”
Nike’s “political message” is at the heart of Zahn’s purchasing ban.
“My decision is only to protect taxpayer dollars from being used in a political campaign,” Zahn wrote.
But that argument does not pass muster, according to the ACLU.
“The First Amendment protects against suppression of political speech, which is at the core of what the mayor is trying to do,” ACLU of Louisiana staff attorney Bruce Hamilton said. “He is brazenly censoring the political views of the residents he is supposed to represent.”
In the letter, the ACLU states that the mayor’s “personal objection to the political messages expressed by Nike is simply not a legitimate government interest, let alone a compelling one.”
The Nike purchasing ban sparked international media coverage, with critics blasting Zahn’s motives.
New Orleans Saints players Terron Armstead and Cam Jordan joined a peaceful protest against the ban at a Kenner playground earlier this week.