School may reject Nike purchase

Some members of a Pennsylvania school board appear ready to stand up to Nike because of a former NFL player's kneeling.

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

Board members John Burnham, Theressa Miller, Don Ellis Jr. and Tim McQuiston all announced Wednesday they would vote "no" on the purchase because some equipment is from Nike. The opposition led the remaining board members to vote to table the motion until next month.

Burnham was the first to announce opposition to the measure. In a short interview before the board went into an executive session, Burnham elaborated on why he was against it.

"Nike has demonstrated, in my mind, some poor choices in marketing," Burnham said.

He disagreed with Nike's association with Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback 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 Meadville (Pa.) Tribune has reached out to Nike for comment and has not yet heard back. The school district is located in the northwestern corner of the state, just south of Erie.

The other dissenting board members had similar sentiments. Miller expressed opposition to a more recent Nike decision when, in July, 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.

The purchase amounted to $31,232.07. 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.

Business Manager Greg Mayle said the district could rebid the purchase with the specification of excluding Nike products. Mayle acknowledged that decision would cost around $250. He also said the equipment cost could rise.

District Athletic Director John Acklin was surprised by the news.

"It seems obvious to me they could have told us earlier," Acklin said.

Acklin estimated the district has "very little" Nike equipment, with football shoes being an exception.

Despite the opposition from the four board members, the remaining five could have approved the purchase in a 5-4 vote. Instead, the board withdrew the motion and voted unanimously to table it.

The delay is not expected to affect the current sports season. Superintendent Jarrin Sperry said the district began a practice a few years ago of purchasing equipment a year ahead of time in order to get equipment cheaper, as many items are discounted around spring.

Sean P. Ray can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at sray@meadvilletribune.com.

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