District Tables Nike Purchase Over Political Concerns | Athletic Business

District Tables Nike Purchase Over Political Concerns

A vote to purchase sports equipment for the next school year was tabled by Conneaut School Board due to political disagreements about some of the products involved.

As reported by The Meadville Tribune, four board members announced last week that they would vote "no" on the purchase due to some of the equipment coming from Nike. The opposition led the remaining board members to vote to table the motion until next month.

The purchase in its initial form amounted to $31,232.07 and was split across several vendors, including Pyramid School Products and M-F Athletic Company & Perform Better. Included in the purchase would be equipment for the school district's golf, football, cross country, volleyball, soccer, wrestling, basketball, softball, baseball and lacrosse teams, as well as general first aid equipment. Examples of equipment include mouth guards, hats, uniforms, new balls and other such items.

Board member John Burnham was the first to announce his opposition to the measure. In a short interview before the board went into an executive session, Burnham elaborated on why he was against the purchase. "Nike has demonstrated, in my mind, some poor choices in marketing," Burnham said.

He further clarified that he disagreed with the company's association with Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers player who began kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games in 2016 in protest of police brutality. Kaepernick has since become a Nike spokesman.

The other three dissenting board members expressed similar reservations to the school affiliating with Nike.

Theressa Miller expressed opposition to a more recent Nike decision when, in July 2019, the company canceled a planned shoe bearing the original Betsy Ross version of the American flag. Miller said while she believes Nike, as a private business, is allowed to make such decisions, she thought the school district should spend money on companies that express similar viewpoints to the board. Don Ellis Jr. criticized Nike for having what he viewed as a lack of support for America's military. Tim McQuiston said he agreed with the comments of the other dissenting voters and offered no further comment.

After the four announced their opposition, Business Manager Greg Mayle said the school district could rebid the purchase with the specification of excluding Nike products. Mayle acknowledged that decision would incur some additional costs due to the need to re-advertise the bid. Those costs are believed to be around $250. Solicitor George Joseph suggested separating out the bids that don't contain Nike products and approving those separately at the school board's next meeting.

District athletic director John Acklin was not present at Wednesday's meeting, according to the Tribune, but he said Thursday he was taken by surprise when he learned of the news. He said he had not had forward knowledge that any of the board members were opposed to Nike equipment and wished he knew ahead of time so he could have avoided including Nike products beforehand.

Acklin estimated that the Nike purchases would have comprised around $8,000 of the total cost of equipment purchases slated for this year and noted they included some significant pieces of equipment. For example, the district was going to buy around $2,500 worth of football shoes from Nike, an annual purchase he said has been made for the past several years, the Tribune reported.

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