Big Dog Ranch Res­cue de­nies ban on Nike

Palm Beach Daily News - - TODAY - By ALEXAN­DRA CLOUGH

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.


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