Disappointed over divisive comments
In early September, Nike unveiled the new “Just Do It” campaign with Colin Kaepernick as the featured athlete. The campaign immediately drew both staunch support and criticism throughout the country. Charles County was not exempt in citizens voicing their opinions on social media. While the Charles County NAACP supports the rights for citizens to express themselves, we were disappointed over recent comments made by community leaders regarding Nike’s endorsement of football notable, Colin Kaepernick.
The mayor of La Plata and professor at College of Southern Maryland, Jeannine Beaudoin James, posted from her personal Facebook account; “Nike selected Colin Kaepernick as the new face of the company’s “Just Do It” campaign. How disappointing. #BoycottNike.” Almost simultaneously, local realtor and owner/operator of Martini’s in White Plains, Pete Hamelman posted an expletive ridden rant that voiced his displeasure with Nike and their choice to feature Mr. Kaepernick on his personal Facebook page. Both statements, caused several people across the county to resort to negative commentary, unwarranted comments with racial undertones.
Mayor James initially responded to the backlash by stating that the post was a class project, but later issued what she believed to be an apology. Mr. Hamelman chose not to issue an apology, but to offer an “explanation only for my friends, family members, colleagues, and others that know me personally or thru my various business ventures…”
Within a few days of her post, Mayor James and the Charles County NAACP leadership met to discuss the post and how it impacted the local community. During the conversation we expressed to Mayor James that she has a duty to all of her constituents to refrain from divisive rhetoric and further adding fuel to a hot topic. The Charles County NAACP leadership also had a conversation with Mr. Hamelman, in which they expressed how his comments as an owner of a business that is patronized consistently by African Americans in the county has been interpreted by them.
The Charles County NAACP believes that everyone has a constitutional right to freedom of speech. We also believe that right is accompanied with a heightened level of responsibility for community leaders. Our goal is to hold community leaders accountable when their words or actions invite divisive comments. We are most concerned with negative comments made on Social Media that only serve to divide us further and create fear among us.
In an effort to foster a safe space for these conversations, we will host our fourth and final “Community Conversation: We are One” on from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1 at the La Plata Baptist Church located at 9400 Old Stagecoach Road, La Plata. The topic of our final conversation is entitled “Equal Treatment.” Mayor James, and Mr. Hamelman have agreed to sit on the panel with local community leaders to discuss this topic and hear directly from the community. We invite all members in the community to join us in this conversation.
Janice Wilson and Joe Sampson Jr., Waldorf The writers are the president and 3rd vice president of the Charles County chapter of the NAACP.