By Samjah Iman
After making a bold decision to hire Colin Kaepernick as one of the faces of their brand last week, Nike evoked a celebration across the nation. People young and old were virtually high-fiving each other on social media and singing Nike’s praises for offering Kaepernick their platform. The internet felt like a gigantic Nike party that grew more entertaining by the minute. Blogs were reporting the good news, Kaepernick’s face was being plastered everywhere on the web, and Nike was being revered. Adults, young and old, posted pictures of themselves smiling big while donning everything Nike. The world almost seemed like an okay place for a split second until an uninvited guest showed up, causing the party to abruptly stop. The unwelcomed guest at question was Mayor Ben Zahn of Kenner, LA, and he came to the party in the form of a memorandum that he sent to his Director, Chad Pitfield, of the Parks and Recreation Department. This letter prohibited the purchases of all Nike products at any City of Kenner Recreation facility effective immediately.
Somehow his letter, that was intended for city employees only, got leaked onto social media causing the socially conscious Kenner, Metairie, and New Orleans residents to become furious. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook notifications buzzed nonstop, alerting social media users of Mayor Zahn’s blatant bigotry. And because of this impudent letter, a protest was formed.
Nike apparel never looked as political as it did on Monday, September 10th at the Susan Park Recreation Center in Kenner, LA. People from all walks of life, fashionably clad in Nike gear of course, gathered in the small gymnasium to show their support of the classic brand and their disdain for Mayor Zahn’s directive. The atmosphere was peaceful yet stern. Outside of the gym, policeman calmly patrolled the area, maneuvered traffic, and assisted spectators with crossing the streets. Inside, adults clapped, shouted, and vigorously said their amens while kids ran around in Nike tennis shoes oblivious to the issues that threaten their futures. City officials greeted protesters with warm handshakes while other earnest residents (and non-residents) stood in a circle diligently listening to community leaders advocate and recruit people to register to vote.
Upon leaving the center, I bumped into Councilman Gregory Carroll who seemed eager to make his way into the building. He was clearly on a mission but stopped for a second to greet citizens and give me his thoughts on the turn of events.
“I stand with Mayor Cantrell on this issue. Mayor Zahn’s decision is totally wrong. It does not help this city, nor does it make it better. It actually ostracizes us and affects us financially.”
The protest lasted for about two hours and had a turnout of close to 1,000 people.