Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant is backing Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher’s decision to part ways with Nike as a vendor for gear for the state’s law enforcement officers. Now the ACLU of Mississippi is responding.
In a statement, Gov. Bryant said:
“I support the Commissioner’s decision. He has a right to determine what vendors DPS does business with, and it’s not going to be with a company that pays an individual who has slandered our fine men and women in law enforcement.”
The decision comes after Nike chose Colin Kaepernick as one of its faces for a 30th anniversary “Just do it” campaign. After an initial slump on the stock market, Nike’s online sales are up by 30% and stock closed Monday at $83.26 on the NYSE.
Tuesday, the ACLU of Mississippi released the following statement:
Nike recently featured Colin Kaepernick prominently in a new advertisement campaign. Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem to bring attention to the lack of accountability of law enforcement officers who kill unarmed black men and boys. President Donald Trump has tried to divide our country by re-framing the lawful protest as unpatriotic and disrespectful of the military and an assault on law enforcement. In response to Nike’s ad, Commissioner of Public Safety Marshall Fisher and Governor Phil Bryant joined President Trump in his divisive culture war by implementing and supporting a ban by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety on the purchase of Nike products. The below quote can be attributed to ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director and retired U.S. Army Colonel Jennifer Riley Collins:
“Mississippi has a long history of failing to acknowledge and hold accountable those who commit injustices against black and brown people and other ethnic minorities. Commissioner Fisher’s decision to not purchase Nike products is yet another attempt to change the narrative and refuse to acknowledge that black and brown people are disproportionately being killed at the hands of law enforcement without accountability.
“Like, Marshall Fisher, I too served this nation in uniform. I did so proudly and honorably in peace and war because I believe that every American should have the right to exercise the freedoms for which I fought. Both governmental officials should be reminded that they represent all of Mississippi and are sworn to uphold the constitution, which includes the freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest.
“Commissioner Fisher, with the governor’s aid, is trying to use the power of his public office to prevent others from expressing their support for Colin Kaepernick. Commissioner Fisher’s decision is a clear response to political speech with which he disagrees. The most fundamental precept of the First Amendment is that the government cannot suppress one side of a public debate. The government cannot impose ideological litmus tests on government contractors.
“About 75 years ago, the Supreme Court held in the Barnette decision that ‘no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.’ Mississippians individually can use their power in the marketplace to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction and advocate for or against political, social, and economic change. We saw this during the Boston Tea Party, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the campaign to divest from businesses operating in apartheid South Africa. The government and our state leaders in their official capacity, including Marshall Fisher and Governor Bryant, however, cannot participate in unconstitutional efforts to stamp out First Amendment-protected campaigns.
“Whatever you may think about Nike or Colin Kaepernick, political protests are a legitimate form of non-violent speech, and are protected by the First Amendment. When Kaepernick took a knee, it was not in opposition to law enforcement or the military nor was it disrespectful to this country. It was in protest of the pervasive racial injustice that still remains in our country. If Mississippi is to ever escape the vestiges of its divided past and move forward to become a place of hospitality and opportunity for all, our state’s leaders must focus on legitimate governmental issues.”