Last month, Americans got up in arms because Nike chose to put the face of Colin Kaepernick on the front of their ‘Just Do It’ campaign. After the announcement, people took to social media to express their outrage, announce a boycott, and literally light fires. And now, according to photos published to Twitter this week, a sheriff’s department in Arkansas exploited inmates to show his disdain for the shoe company.
On Wednesday evening, activist Shaun King tweeted out a collage of photos he says were given to him by a source from within the Union County Sheriff’s department. They were accompanied by the following description:
The Sheriff in Union County, Arkansas is putting Nike t-shirts on people they arrest and making them wear them during mugshots. Source says it is to mock Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Disgusting.
The Sheriff in Union County, Arkansas is putting Nike t-shirts on people they arrest and making them wear them during mugshots.
Source says it is to mock Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Disgusting. pic.twitter.com/9z9Nw9hxuF
— Shaun King (@shaunking) October 11, 2018
King made the claim that the Union County Sheriff Ricky Roberts was forcing inmates to wear the shirts so he could make his political point.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, they reached out to the Roberts Wednesday evening, but was unable to speak with him. Calls to the sheriff’s office were directed to a voicemail for the the public relations officer, Chief Deputy Charles Phillips, who was also unavailable Wednesday night.
The paper did note that at “approximately 9 p.m. Wednesday, less than an hour after King posted the allegation to social media, the Union County Sheriff’s Office removed all photos of inmates from the jail’s online roster.”
The removal of the photos indicates that they realized their gig was up.
According to the jail’s roster, the black Nike shirts with the large logo on the center began to show up around September 15, less than two weeks after the campaign began.
The sheriff forcing people to wear the Nike shirt as part of some political statement is most assuredly a violation of policy. Moreover, it outright disrespectful to the people in the photos and does absolutely everything to further divide in the country.
The divide and conquer identity politics being pushed on people is coming to a head and people are literally burning things and exploiting people. The talking heads on TV are forcing people to take sides and people are attacking others for doing nothing other than practicing free speech—in a country that was founded on it. This goes both ways too, with the left and the right. However, exploiting people who you have in a jail goes far beyond free speech.
As Rachel Blevins noted last month, while the left applauds Nike for choosing Kaepernick as a spokesperson, and the right argues that Nike should have chosen a former NFL player like Pat Tillman—while completely ignoring the U.S. government’s blatant cover-up of Tillman’s tragic death—they are all completely ignoring the fact that whether they are praising Nike or criticizing Nike, they are still helping the campaign.
Even the people who are taking to social media to brag about burning their Nike merchandise are destroying products that they have already paid Nike for and they are also helping to raise awareness about the campaign. And as The Free Thought Project has reported, the products they are burning could have easily been donated to a good cause:
“After last year’s season ended, this sentiment lay festering in the back of everyone’s minds until this Sunday when Nike made their announcement. Up in arms, supposed “patriots” began calling for the boycott of Nike and destroying their clothing because a kneeling football player is somehow disrespectful to this country. But is kneeling more disrespectful to “the troops” than taking to social media and destroying a pair of shoes that could’ve been donated to a homeless veteran? Is Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem more disrespectful to the troops than calling for his freedom of speech, his constitutional rights that the troops ostensibly fight for, to be removed?
What’s more disrespectful, kneeling to protest people being killed by police or taking to social media to gloat about the fact that you can burn a $100 pair of sneakers while a homeless veteran you claim to “support” goes hungry, walking the streets in laceless boots with holes in them, as his feet bleed from blisters?
Burning goods that could’ve gone to a homeless veteran—whose country chewed him up and spit him out—in protest to someone’s freedom of speech, which that veteran fought for, is not only an insult to the troops, but it highlights just how hypocritical some folks are when they claim to “support the troops.”
Nike’s campaign has now generated more than $163 million in media exposure reaching historical highs, according to reports from Apex Marketing Group.
While Nike will make money from the campaign and Kaepernick will make money from his deal with Nike, the question remains—will anything be done for the families who have lost their loved ones to police violence, and will anything be done to stop similar acts of violence from happening in the future?