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Rhode Island Town Backs Off on Nike Boycott After Uproar

North Smithfield Town Council in Rhode Island backtracked on its decision to protest Nike products over a controversial ad featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The resolution to boycott the athletics apparel company was initially introduced by Council President John Beauregard, who was disgusted by Nike’s decision to use Kaepernick in its new “Just Do It” ad campaign. He claimed the football player’s practice of kneeling during pregame national anthem ceremonies to call attention to social justice issues was disrespectful to the police.

The Council’s nonbinding resolution created a widespread backlash from town residents, leading officials to reverse their actions. Five of the Town Council members unanimously voted to withdraw the resolution on Monday night. The measure originally passed 3-2.

Beauregard apologized for having North Smithfield placed under scrutiny because of the former resolution to boycott Nike.

“There is clearly a large gap in how we perceive things,” Beauregard said before the council voted. “This is something that has to be worked on by both sides.”

Several residents felt the councilman’s apology was insincere, including protest organizer Cynthia Roberts.

“It would have been better if the ‘apology,’ which it wasn’t an apology, if it was more humble and more reflective of self-reflection as humility,” Roberts told WPRI. “It didn’t represent any of that. That was disappointing to me.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island said the Council could have been vulnerable to being sued for violating the First Amendment.

“By attacking the right to peacefully protest and refusing to recognize the racial injustice prompting it, the resolution shows a disdain for both freedom and equality,” the organization said in a statement. “Rhode Island is better than this.”

In spite of the withdrawing the resolution, Beauregard said his opinion of Nike or Kaepernick still remains the same.

“I still believe that people who have truly sacrificed everything and whose faces should be on a poster are those officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. And not someone who mocks their very existence,” he said during the meeting to withdraw the resolution.

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