Wednesday, 12 September 2018 16:37

Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn still in eye of Nike storm over internal memo

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The controversy over Nike shoes, Colin Kapernick, the NFL, President Donald Trump, respecting the American Flag, peaceful protest, rights of public entities responding to controversial political decisions made by private industry, continues.  Howover as for now, it appears that one of the players who emerged in this flap has taken a knee.

The Kenner Mayor, Ben Zahn has rescinded his position on withdrawing public support for Nike, apparantly falling to political pressure after being a focus of intensed national controversy. Zahn said in a news conference his recanting was due to legal advice he received from the city attorney.

As stated by one member of the Louisiana black caucus, on Facebook this afternoon:


"Team Bishop Alert-Mission Accomplished! There’s more to this story than meets the eye. Just know that a bunch of us (Congressman Richmond, Mayor Cantrell, the New Orleans City Council and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus) went to work to cause this “reversal” to happen. Money talks! PLEASE SHARE!"

Earlier today, the Louisiana Black Caucus had joined the discussion over the now-national controversy involving Kenner Louisiana’s Mayor, Ben Zahn’s internal memo that the city would withdraw public dollars in support of Nike’s products due to the company’s decision to use controversial Colin Kapernick in its ads.

 “Elected officials should strictly refrain from using their philosophical and political viewpoints to direct public policy. Such actions are contradictory to the best interest of the people they have been elected to represent. Governmental actions should adhere to the rule and spirit of the law and be based on progressive fiscal policies and constructive administrative directives”.

Other local African American public officials have stepped into the controversy including New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Kenner is a neighbor subdivision to the City of New Orleans:

“As I have emphasized repeatedly since taking office: I believe in the values the people of New Orleans stand for -- being inclusive, being accepting and supportive of all our people, committing to social justice, and being intentional about how we make decisions,” said Mayor Cantrell. 

"The mandate handed down by Kenner’s mayor is out of step with those values, and not reflective of the way our City does business. Although the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is located in Kenner, it is owned and governed by the City of New Orleans. Let me assure you that our airport will continue to uphold our City's values.”

The controversy involved this internal memo from the Mayor of Kenner:

Private, for-profit companies have every right to advertise how they wish, even if it means using advertising to promote corporate political beliefs. Individuals also have every right to support or oppose any company or brand for any reason. Those freedoms should never be lost.

I applaud Nike's message of inclusion and encouragement for everyone to be their best and dream big. But I also recognize that Nike, in its zeal to sell shoes, chose to promote and sell a political message.

In Kenner, like every city, our citizens and our taxpayers cover a wide spectrum of political philosophies and agendas. We must respect all of those agendas and philosophies. So, when a company uses its advertising as its own political megaphone, government should be fair to all of its people and not allow taxpayer dollars to be used to help that company push its own political agenda.

My decision is only to protect taxpayer dollars from being used in a political campaign. Some have asked if people will be allowed to wear Nike apparel on city playgrounds. The answer to that is ... of course.

My internal memo draws the line on letting companies profit from taxpayers by espousing political beliefs. My decision disallowing Nike from profiting from our taxpayers while they are using their powerful voice as a political tool is my message. This government will not let taxpayer dollars be used to promote a company's or individual's political position, platform or principle. That's my position

Here are some public positions on Facebook:

George Peterson

“I agree with the Mayor that tax payers dollars should not be spent on corporations who support divisive issues”

The mayor has a fiduciary responsibility for tax payers dollars. Nike's support for Colin Kaepernick is support for what millions of Americans see as disrespect for our National Anthem, our Flag, our Veterans and our Law Enforcement.

Tax payer dollars should not go to vendors who promote what is seen as Anti American divisive agenda

Furthermore a lot of Colin Kaepernick's charitable contributions go to organizations that promote abortion. Again the mayor has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the city's tax dollars do not go to promote issues that are controversial or have negative impacts on his constituents.

Walt Bennetti

“Instead of making things better, Kenner Mayor Zahn just muddied the water even more.”

Here are also some comments found on Twitter. In fairness, most of the comments that I found were against the Kenner Mayor’s decision.  Here are more tweets within the search Read more comments and post on Twitter

Senator Troy Carter‏Verified account @TROYSEE Sep 9

We are better than this! This is counterproductive to our efforts to foster racial harmony and cooperative regionalism. TC

George Capen #exGOP‏ @george_capen Sep 9

.@CityofKenner @Kenner_TV @MSNBC I hope this is a hoax. After serving 25 years defending American freedoms, this would be a severe blow to all the sacrifices made by me, others, and many that gave all. Freedom isn't free. I served for #TakeAKnee. #Nike #VeteransForKaepernick

Stephanie Ruhle‏Verified account @SRuhle Sep 10

Stephanie Ruhle Retweeted VICE

I sincerely hope that Kenner is heaven on Earth I hope not one person is hungry or unable to find work I hope the schools & hospitals are world class I hope there is zero crime or infrastructure problems If NOT- he’s got WAY better things to do than ban @nike from youth sports

Rep Cedric Richmond‏Verified account @RepRichmond 23h23 hours ago

Imposing a Nike ban on the innocent youth of Kenner is divisive and unnecessary. We as politicians should bring people together, not pull them apart. Read my response to Kenner Mayor Zahn’s Nike memo here:

Louisiana Democrats‏Verified account @LaDemos Sep 10

Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn claims his decision to ban Nike products "is only to protect taxpayer dollars from being used in a political campaign." We invite Mayor Zahn to name any other instance where he banned a company for their political agenda. We'll wait.

 Sep 11


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