NEW ORLEANS – The American Civil Liberties Union called for Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn to rescind a memo that banned city booster clubs from purchasing Nike products.
In a letter to Zahn’s office Wednesday, the ACLU and its Louisiana chapter argued that the policy violates the First Amendment and would fail any constitutional challenge.
The memo said all purchases made by any booster club operating at any Kenner recreation facility must be approved by the Director of Parks and Recreation. The document went viral over the weekend, drawing rebukes locally and nationally.
The memo, which was dated Sept. 5, was sent the same day Nike released ads featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has been widely criticized and supported for kneeling during the National Anthem as a protest of social injustice.
Zahn said Monday that the memo was meant to “not let taxpayer dollars be used to promote a company’s or individual’s political position, platform or principle.”
The ACLU argues that Zahn’s “personal objection to the political messages expressed by Nike is simply not a legitimate government interest, let alone a compelling one.”
“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,” ACLU of Louisiana executive director Alanah Odoms Herbert said.
ACLU of Louisiana staff attorney Bruce Hamilton said that the group is "willing to explore all legal options" if the city does not rescind the memo.
"The policy is blatantly unconstitutional and those affected by it should contact the ACLU of Louisiana," Hamilton said.
Open Letter to Kenner Mayor from the ACLU by WWLTVWebteam on Scribd