Union Country, Arkansas sheriff Ricky Roberts has been accused of purposely photographing inmates in Nike shirts to make a statement against the brand and its sponsorship of activist Colin Kaepernick. The behavior was first spotlighted by activist Shaun King in a tweet on October 10, 2018. About an hour after King published his tweet, according to Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the photos of the inmates were removed from the jail’s online roster.
According to the Gazette, “Before the photos were taken down, at least 11 of the 182 inmates were shown wearing a black t-shirt with “Nike Athletics” using an all-cap, boldface font above Nike’s signature check mark.”
The mugshots of inmates wearing a black t-shirt featuring a small Nike Swoosh began showing up in early July. Beginning September 15th, images of the inmates wearing the more prominent Nike logo began showing up on the site. Nike announced its Kaepernick Just Do It campaign on September 3rd.
Roberts has denied putting the inmates in Nike t-shirts to make an statement against the brand or Kaepernick. In a letter issueed by Union County, he claimed the shirts were provided to inmates who lacked proper clothing, Claiming impartiality, Roberts wrote, “We are not, and I will not, be influenced by current political and social debates in the media.” He added, “This shirt is not only in use now, but also has been for several months prior. We have taken steps to rectify this issue and insure that this will never happen again.”
The sheriff subsequently spoke with KATV reporter Matt Mershon, and told him the jail roster was wiped of mugshot photos because “we obviously offended some people.” He also said the Nike shirts were from the jail’s lost and found box and inmates were not required to wear them. The sheriff added that there are 193 inmates currently in the Union County Detention Facility and 20 inmates had a mugshot taken with the Nike shirt on.
While Roberts claims he’s trying to help the inmates look presentable while being photographed, it’s clear many of the inmates are wearing the Nike shirt over their own shirts. Also, while he claimed the shirt had been used many months prior, the shirt with the prominent block logo didn’t appear until mid-September.
The Sheriff in Union County, Arkansas is putting Nike t-shirts on people they arrest and making them wear them during mugshots.
Source says it is to mock Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Disgusting. pic.twitter.com/9z9Nw9hxuF
— Shaun King (@shaunking) October 11, 2018
Shaun King tweet
— Matt Mershon (@MattMershonKATV) October 11, 2018