Big Dog Ranch Rescue denies ban on Nike
Big Dog Ranch Rescue on Thursday denied it had implemented a controversial ban on Nike sneakers. Instead, a spokesman said the founder’s edict to replace employees’ Nike sneakers with alternate brands was a “personal offer” and not an official policy.
“She understands it’s a free country,” spokesman Chase Scott said of Big Dog President Lauree Simmons, who heads the Loxahatchee Grovesbased organization.
On Wednesday, Simmons told the Palm Beach Post she did not want the organization’s employees wearing the popular athletic brand’s sneakers in the office.
“I don’t want to see Nike shoes around our facility,” Simmons said at the time. “I don’t want to see them at Big Dog Ranch.”
But after a social media uproar Thursday, Big Dog backpeddled on the Nike ban. Scott also said Simmons would pay at her own expense to replace Nike sneakers worn by employees if they want. But there was no requirement that they do so.
“If people don’t want to participate, they don’t have to,” Scott said. And if volunteers wear Nikes, or people wanting to adopt dogs are wearing Nikes, that’s OK, too, Scott said.
That was a concession from the strident position Simmons had taken a day earlier.
Simmons’ ire at Nike stemmed from the brand’s new marketing campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the ex-NFL star who in 2016 launched a kneeldown protest during the playing of the national anthem at sporting events.
“I think it’s extremely disrespectful to the brave men and women who have gone and fought for this country,” Simmons said of athletes who joined the protest.
She added: “You live in America. This is your country. Respect your national anthem and respect your flag. If you don’t like this country and the way things are run, move to another country, but don’t disrespect our national anthem.”
In the same interview, Simmons said she had told employees who own Nike sneakers to provide her with their shoe sizes, and she would buy them another brand of sneakers. She said all her employees agreed to her rule.
A Big Dog worker who requested anonymity said employees were forbidden to wear the brand on the charity’s campus, and if they were found wearing Nike sneakers, they would be sent home.
Big Dog board member Danny Glassman on Wednesday said he was not aware of Simmons’ no-Nike decree. But he said he didn’t think it would turn off donors.
“In today’s day and age, people get upset over a lot of different things,” Glassman said. “But I think on something like this, it is the right thing to do.”
But Simmons’ statements subsequently elicited a torrent of criticism on social media that included donors, volunteers and members of the public. The rescue’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were down for about an hour on Thursday. It then posted this statement: “Big Dog Ranch Rescue has saved over 27,000 dogs and that is our only mission.
“The founder’s personal offer to replace Nike shoes for those employees who wish to participate was not political and was intended to honor Veterans. It was a personal offer from the founder at her own expense and is not an employee policy. The founder’s father was an Air Force Veteran and the organization is proud to work with PTSD Veterans and supports those individual’s and their families who sacrifice for our country.”
The backlash overshadowed the group’s effort to rescue dogs from shelters in the Carolinas in advance of Hurricane Florence. Big Dog Ranch Rescue sent vans to North Carolina and South Carolina this week to collect shelter dogs and bring them to Florida.
The uproar also cast even more attention on Nike’s marketing campaign. The brand made Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, the face of its 30th anniversary advertising for its “Believe in Something” campaign.
One of the most vocal critics of the kneeling protest has been President Donald Trump, whose daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, co-chaired a March 10 Big Dog Ranch fundraising luncheon at Mar-a-Lago.
Big Dog Ranch, the largest no-kill dog shelter in the southeast United States, raised more than $1 million at the “Wine, Women & Shoes” luncheon at Trump’s club. Two more upcoming fundraisers are planned for Trump properties in Palm Beach and Jupiter.
Simmons has greatly expanded Big Dog Ranch. Thanks to donations, the rescue recently opened a facility in Loxahatchee Groves that can accommodate 500 dogs and 100 puppies. A new veterinary clinic opened two weeks ago. Continued public support is crucial for Big Dog’s programs, the group says.
An annual fall fundraiser will be held for the first time at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter on Nov. 16. Simmons said she moved the event there because Trump National can accommodate 500 people, more than the Jupiter Beach Resort, which can host only 350 guests.
And next March 9, Mara-Lago will again host the Palm Beach luncheon.