Fighting For Freedom of Speech: RI Community Grapples with Controversy in Wake of Recent Nike Decision

by The Cowl Editor on September 27, 2018


Banner of Colin Kaepernick advertising for Nike.
Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the national anthem has inspired a movement across the country. Photo courtesy of Eric Risberg/AP Photo.

by Laura Arango ’20

Opinion Staff

In an unexpected and absurd turn of events, on Monday, September 17, the North Smithfield Town Council voted in favor of a resolution in which the town requests its departments to refrain from purchasing Nike products.

This ridiculous resolution was in response to Nike showing support for the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in their latest commercial advertisement.

The resolution was presented by Council President John Beauregard and was to be effective immediately upon approval.

However, on Sept. 24, Beauregard apologized for bringing negative attention to the town and reversed his decision.

Kaepernick was released from the NFL in 2016 for kneeling during the national anthem—advocating against police brutality and social injustice.

Beauregard originally stated that he is not opposing the former quarterback’s act of kneeling or his belief in fighting against social injustice, but rather he is opposing the negative comments Kaepernick has made against law enforcement outside of the kneeling event.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states that there shall be no law that abriges freedom of speech.

Whether or not  Kaepernick chose to kneel or make comments against law enforcement is his own inalienable right. Beauregard choosing not to agree with Kaepernick’s comments and expressing his distaste for the quarterback at a town council meeting is his inalienable right.

However, Beauregard did not simply express his beliefs, he successfully tried to impose them on an entire town. The resolution passed on a 3-2 vote. 

Even the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island stated that the town could be held legally and financially liable for violating the First Amendment.

Nevertheless, this did not stop three human beings from looking past the oppositions of the community and passing the resolution.

This resolution does not fight for the rights of law enforcement. What this resolution does is disregard the reality that there is a police brutality issue in this country.

This does not mean that law enforcement needs to be done away with. Instead, it means that law enforcement is necessary in this country and America cannot afford to have police officers that exploit and abuse their power.

There are advocates out there in society that recognize the importance of an upstanding law enforcement entity and will do whatever it takes to make sure this is achieved.

Kaepernick is one of those advocates, and Beauregard is missing this fundamental point.

There should be no negative consequences to peaceful protesting and fighting against racial injustice. It is a shame that there has been so much negative backlash.

To ignore the racial inequality that exists in this country would be ignorant, to say the least. North Smithfield, a town that is 96.6 percent white, should strive every single day to try to understand the struggles of minorities in the United States.

Beauregard’s initial resolution only served to propagate further racial tensions in society.

However, now that he has changed his mind, there is hope that these pressures will improve.