Wearing Nike hats, T-shirt, and sneakers, several dozen people attended a protest to Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn’s policy banning playground booster clubs from buying or wearing Nike products.
The protest was held Monday afternoon at the Susan Park Gym in Kenner.
“He's opened Pandora's Box,” resident Jane Stewart said.
“The memo upset me to my heart. How can you dictate what we should be doing for the kids whether it's Nike or whatever?" Coach Eric Johnson said.
A memo by Mayor Zahn began circulating over the weekend. It was sent out last week to booster club coaches and members. The memo leaked and went viral, sparking strong emotions from critics and supporters.
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“They can protest whenever they want, but they need to stand up for the flag. If they can't stand up for the flag, then they can't stand up for the country and therefore, we don't need to buy their stuff,” resident Julie Jamieson said.
The memo came after Nike ran ads featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the National Anthem as a sign of peaceful protest against police brutality and taking place across the nation.
New Orleans Council member Jay Banks says he has gotten concerned calls about the controversy, effecting not just Kenner, but New Orleans as well.
“Kenner is where New Orleans airport is. And while this is not governed by New Orleans, it affects New Orleans. And there's some real concerns about what kind of economic impact this might have,” Banks said.
Resident Jane Stewart says the mayor did not thoroughly think the memo through.
"Of the many things there are to be said about Mayor Zahn's choice, it's just very dangerous to me. In this heated political climate, it takes a simple logo and makes it a target on kids,” Stewart said.
Saints players Cameron Jordan and Terron Armstead also attended and spoke at the protest.
"Everything that Nike has done in its slogan is pushing forward. So when it comes to something like this and it's effecting the community that we're in right now...how is this pushing forward?" Jordan said.
Zahn clarified the policy Monday with a statement saying it’s okay to wear Nike gear during organized sports events in Kenner, but does not want any taxpayer money spent to promote Nike’s “political agenda.”
“I just feel like he's trying to cover himself up for basically the heat that he's getting put on him right now,” resident LiRoy Cage said.
“How's it keeping politics out if he wrote 'Every recreational park in Kenner cannot wear Nike logo or cannot buy like from the Booster Clubs? That's putting the politics in it to me,” resident Tony Lathers said.
Mayor Zahn declined to be interviewed Monday.
Another protest is planned for Sunday at different locations of New Home Ministries in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Houston. Click here for more information.
Caresse Jackman can be reached at email@example.com.