Publisher: It’s ‘Just Business’ for Nike

The new 30th anniversary piece of Nike’s “Just Do It” ad campaign, featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has a slogan: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Everything?

Has Kaepernick lost his fortune made in the NFL? His family? His friends? His health? His celebrity? Hell no. That is insulting to hard-working Americans and veterans who actually have sacrificed for what they believe in.

I agree he has lost the “respect” of millions of Americans for kneeling during the national anthem. He’s no hero in my book. And now he is suing the NFL for loss of employment.

But maybe he doesn’t need a job anymore, since Nike came to his rescue, using him in a publicity stunt to sell shoes to young people, predominantly African-American males—and it won’t hurt in helping Nike recruit black athletes to the Nike brand. (Bloomberg news predicted that Nike has already gotten more than $40 million in free publicity.)

Many are saying this was clever and simply a “business decision.” So much for the principle of sacrificing for beliefs. Nike just used Kaepernick as a pawn in its effort to sell shoes. And Kaepernick was more than willing to be bought and go along.

As for all those who will boycott Nike or burn their shoes—most of you don’t matter to Nike. You aren’t young and don’t buy a $150 pair of tennis shoes once or twice a year. It’s “Just Business.”

It saddens me to see in 2018—as we remember the 9/11 attacks today—a major U.S. corporation launch an ad campaign built around a person who disrespects the National Anthem and American flag and the true sacrifice they represent, and many applaud. Times have changed, and our nation faces many challenges. What does Nike have to say about that? “Just Screw It.”

Bernard will set precedent

We recently learned that school board member Connie Bernard, elected in 2010 and recently re-elected as unopposed, is resigning her position as vice president of the board due to her husband’s diagnosis of cancer and the time and attention it will require of her. I know all of us are sympathetic to the battle they have ahead and pray for a full recovery. Our thoughts are with them during this time.

But while this is a difficult time for the Bernard family personally and we all want to be supportive, the issue of Bernard continuing on the school board remains. What happens will set standards and a precedent for the future.

We have all seen the disturbing video of her mid-August altercation with a gathering of teenagers in the Oak Hills neighborhood. We all know the sheriff’s office issued a summons to her that night. And the district attorney is still considering prosecution. This is not what her constituents or our community expect from an elected leader and school board member. It is certainly not the example to set for the students in the East Baton Rouge school district.  (Bernhard did issue a public apology for the foul language she used in the video.)

When resigning from the position of vice president, she thanked her fellow board members, saying it had been “a pleasure and honor to serve.” It is an honor to be elected and serve the people, but that honor is not just bestowed by her board colleagues—it is bestowed by her voters. She was fortunate to be unopposed at qualifying, which spoke highly of her tenure. But the incident took place after qualifying. If she had drawn an opponent, it is likely they would have a good chance of defeating her at the polls now. And if qualifying was reopened, how many opponents would she have?

Bernard also told her colleagues she would remain on the board to “advance educational opportunities for all of our children.” But can she still do that effectively? And is that fair to her constituents, who don’t get a chance to vote now?

Surprisingly, none of the other school board members have commented on her actions. Does their silence condone such behavior? Do they lower the bar for what is expected of a school board member? Is that OK with you? (This is not a fraternity where you can close ranks and protect members.) This seat belongs to the people of District 8, not Bernard. What is best for them?

Elected officials are held to a higher standard and should know that. Sure, we are all humans and make mistakes, but there are consequences and accountability. And that applies to our school board and Bernard. She crossed the line.

Bernard has served our community and helped children in many ways. For that we should be thankful. But I believe it would be best for her, her family, our school board and the community if she stepped down from her seat and allowed for a new election this spring.

Supporting TOPS

I know there has been much debate on TOPS scholarships as the cost to the state budget grows every year. Many want to argue that this “merit system” available to all should be changed to a “needs-based system.” I disagree. We have many “needs-based” programs. The fact is that much of our budget every year in Louisiana goes to benefit the more than 20% of our population in poverty. TOPS incentivizes and rewards achievement—and that’s a good thing. I don’t think anyone should apologize for that.

Another point I would make is that, in the past, folks could send their children to public schools and save for their college. Now, many public schools are so poor that many middle-class families have to spend thousands a year for private or parochial education (some even costing more than colleges). These same families are paying property taxes for public schools they don’t even use. But if their children achieve a certain GPA, then they are rewarded with TOPS. Good for them. They paid taxes for 13 years and finally have a chance to reap some benefits too. I don’t think anyone should apologize for that either.

I know others clearly have a different view of TOPS. I can respect that, but I don’t have to agree. TOPS is a good thing and should be available to all Louisiana taxpayers.

Use the body cameras

As I have said recently, if we are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for body cameras and dash cams, then turn them on. It would save us all a lot of grief in finding the truth, supporting our officers and protecting the innocent.

That could have been easy if Officer Yuseff Hamadeh had his body cam on when chasing Raheem Howard. But he didn’t.

District Attorney Hillar Moore dropped the attempted murder charge because there was no solid evidence that Howard had a gun or fired a shot—and no video. That was the officer’s fault.

Many new questions still remain here and should be investigated further.

Chief Murphy Paul took time to investigate with the district attorney to be fair to all. But a camera policy is essential if our city is going to truly benefit from this technology and all the tax dollars invested. The truth, justice—and lives—can be at stake.

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