Mis­sis­sippi agency says it won’t buy from Nike over ads

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Jeff Amy The As­so­ci­ated Press

Mis­sis­sippi’s pub­lic safety com­mis­sioner dis­closed Satur­day that state po­lice will no longer buy Nike prod­ucts, say­ing the ath­letic ap­parel maker is un­pa­tri­otic and fails to sup­port those in uni­form.

“As com­mis­sioner of the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety, I will not sup­port ven­dors who do not sup­port law en­force­ment and our mil­i­tary,” Com­mis­sioner Mar­shall Fisher said in a state­ment Satur­day to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

It isn’t im­me­di­ately clear how much gear the state po­lice agency buys from Nike or if it pur­chases directly from the ath­letic ap­parel maker. De­part­ment spokesman War­ren Strain said the de­part­ment has bought shoes and shirts from the com­pany, as well as tac­ti­cal train­ing uni­forms.

But Mis­sis­sippi’s Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment is jump­ing to sup­port the cause, with Gov. Phil Bryant laud­ing his ap­pointee’s de­ci­sion.

“I sup­port the com­mis­sioner’s de­ci­sion,” Bryant said in a state­ment. The gover­nor said the com­mis­sioner has the right to choose ven­dors his de­part­ment does busi­ness with “and it’s not go­ing to be a com­pany that pays an in­di­vid­ual who has slan­dered our fine men and women in law en­force­ment.”

Nike didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to a phone call and an email seek­ing com­ment Satur­day. On­line news or­ga­ni­za­tion Mis­sis­sippi To­day first re­ported the story Fri­day.

It’s the lat­est dustup fol­low­ing Ore­gon-based Nike’s de­ci­sion to use for­mer San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick in an ad cam­paign. Kaeper­nick be­gan kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them in 2016 to protest po­lice bru­tal­ity and so­cial in­jus­tice.

Fisher’s move is al­ready draw­ing crit­i­cism from the Mis­sis­sippi chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and Demo­cratic state law­mak­ers.

“Th­ese are the peo­ple that are rep­re­sent­ing all Mis­sis­sip­pi­ans,” the ACLU chap­ter said in a state­ment posted Satur­day on Twit­ter. “Th­ese are the peo­ple that are cre­at­ing pol­icy that im­pact all of our lives. Th­ese are the peo­ple that took an oath to up­hold the Con­sti­tu­tion. Yet they refuse to un­der­stand what equal­ity, jus­tice, and ac­count­abil­ity means. This petty de­ci­sion is just an­other show of racism, dis­crim­i­na­tion, stu­pid­ity, in­equity, and di­vi­sive pol­i­tics.”

Other Repub­li­can politi­cians in Mis­sis­sippi ap­pear to see po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage in ex­co­ri­at­ing Nike, though. The cam­paign of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who plans to run for gover­nor in 2019, sent out a state­ment Wed­nes­day say­ing Kaeper­nick’s acts are not a sac­ri­fice — though that’s how the Nike ad de­scribes them.

“By sup­port­ing the NFL protests, Nike is mak­ing it clear that they would rather stand with those who show con­tempt for our coun­try over those who de­fend it,” Reeves said.

Strain couldn’t say how much the de­part­ment spends on Nike gear, or whether it buys directly from the com­pany. Strain di­rected The AP to sub­mit a pub­lic records re­quest for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion. A state gov­ern­ment data­base that cat­a­logs state pur­chases shows no state gov­ern­ment pur­chases directly from Nike by any agency in the bud­get year ended June 30 when searched Satur­day by the AP.

Ear­lier this week, the mayor of a New Or­leans sub­urb re­scinded an or­der say­ing Nike prod­ucts couldn’t be bought for city re­cre­ation fa­cil­i­ties or even by booster clubs us­ing the fa­cil­i­ties. Ken­ner Mayor Ben Zahn said Wed­nes­day he was re­scind­ing the or­der, say­ing it “divided our city and placed Ken­ner in a false and un­flat­ter­ing light on the na­tional stage.” The or­der prompted a protest Mon­day that in­clude three mem­bers of the New Or­leans Saints foot­ball team and hun­dreds of oth­ers.

Mis­sis­sippi’s De­part­ment of Pub­lic Safety in­cludes the state High­way Pa­trol, Bureau of Nar­cotics, Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, Of­fice of Home­land Se­cu­rity, Crime Lab and Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner.

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