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Questions remain after controversial resolution passes in North Smithfield

Blackstone Valley
Questions remain after controversial resolution passes in North Smithfield

NORTH SMITHFIELD (WPRI) — There are few clear answers Tuesday about how a controversial resolution passed Monday night in North Smithfield will be implemented.

At a contentious town council meeting, many spoke against a resolution that asks town departments to no longer buy Nike apparel. The resolution passed 3-2.

Town Council President John Beauregard said his resolution is in response to Nike’s new advertisements featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Beauregard has stated the resolution is not in regards to Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, but in response to comments Kaepernick has made about police.

In a phone interview Tuesday morning, town administrator Gary Ezovski said he will not be sending the resolution to department heads in the town.

“There is no need for further action,” Ezovski said. “The Council President made his position very clear last night.”

While Beauregard stressed it is not a binding resolution and simply a request, it’s unclear if it will impact any decision being made at the schools athletic department.

School committee chair Jim Lombardi said it’s the committees job to set policy and educate children.

“I do not feel it is necessary to take up the issue at a school committee meeting when we have educational issues that are pressing before us,” he added.

A dive into school department budget records for athletics this fiscal year finds the town plans to spend $27,900 on products like tennis balls, jerseys and helmets. The athletic department did not respond to requests Tuesday asking how many of the products will be purchased from Nike or if the department will change what products they buy.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was strongly opposed to resolution. After the vote, the ACLU released a statement saying they are still considering legal action against the town.

Beauregard declined a request for an interview Tuesday on the implementation of his resolution, but at the meeting Monday night made clear it’s not a mandate.

“If all things are equal, it’s just a request to not go with Nike and go with the competitor,” he said. “If the savings are substantial, I am not saying to not save the town money.”

At a North Smithfield School Committee meeting on Tuesday night, the resolution was nowhere on the agenda, but during public comment three committee members voiced their concerns.

“Regardless of the rationale given, these actions speak volumes about our town. This is not who we are,” North Smithfield School Committee Secretary Peg Votta said.

β€œThe school committee as a governmental agency can not and should not impose any restrictions on the unalienable rights of the First Amendment,” North Smithfield School Committee Vice-Chair Jean Meo added.

Lombardi told Eyewitness News that the district has purchased Nike products in the past, but currently have a contract with another company. He said the switch is unrelated to the resolution since the deal was made before the controversy began.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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