I wish I could say that I am surprised by the fact that Mississippi’s public safety commissioner, Marshall Fisher, will no longer allow the Department of Public Safety to purchase Nike products due to the Colin Kaepernick campaign.
In a report by Mississippi Today, College of the Ozarks in southern Missouri dropped Nike from its sports teams. Ben Zahn III, the mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, also banned Nike products from booster club purchases, but later retracted his decision following nationwide criticism.
According to USA Today, “As commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, I will not support vendors who do not support law enforcement and our military,” Fisher said. Governor Phil Bryant voiced his support of this decision, saying Fisher has the right to deny business “with a company that pays an individual who has slandered our fine men and women in law enforcement.”
This decision is obviously an attempt to use political power to prevent others from expressing support for Colin Kaepernick, which is, in fact, unconstitutional.
Political protests are a form of non-violent free speech, and are protected by the First Amendment. Marshall Fisher and Phil Bryant have the right as individuals to disagree with Kaepernick’s protest, but because they are government officials, they are sworn to uphold the Constitution, which includes the freedom of speech and, you guessed it, the right to protest.
Mississippi is already looked down upon as one of the most racist, unaccepting states in the country. The fact that a government agency made this decision, supported by Governor Bryant, perpetuates Mississippi’s refusal to acknowledge the racial injustice that plagues the entire country. Kaepernick and Nike have never slandered law enforcement. Nike was simply supporting Kaepernick’s protest against the disproportionate number of black and brown people being killed at the hands of law enforcement.
Whether Fisher and Bryant like it or not, people have a right to speak for what they believe in. As government officials, they should reconsider their efforts to limit that freedom within the Department of Public Safety, which includes the state Highway Patrol, Bureau of Narcotics, Bureau of Investigation, Office of Homeland Security, Crime Lab and Medical Examiner. Let’s face it; there are most likely people in DPS that support Kaepernick’s Nike campaign. With this in mind, are Fisher and Bryant not limiting those people their right to free speech?
Fisher has a right as a Mississippi citizen to no longer purchase Nike products if he disagrees with Kaepernick’s political opinions, but the fact remains that if he is imposing his views on the citizens of Mississippi, he is breaking the constitution.
Fisher would be wise to follow in Zahn’s footsteps and retract his decision to ban Nike. This decision only perpetuates the stereotype of racist, unaccepting Mississippians, and further divides our community.