An Arkansas sheriff is fighting back against backlash over mugshot photos that some claimed were meant to mock former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Suspects in Nike shirts appeared in mugshots from the south Arkansas jail, sparking outrage from critics including prominent civil rights activist, Shaun King, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
“The Sheriff in Union County, Arkansas is putting Nike t-shirts on people they arrest and making them wear them during mugshots,” he tweeted. “Source says it is to mock Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Disgusting.”
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
But Union County Sheriff Rick Roberts countered the false claim, explaining in a statement that suspects at the county jail in El Dorado were simply given the T-shirts to wear because they did not have any other suitable attire.
“It is not our intent, nor has it ever been our intent, to demean or disparage those who are innocent until proven guilty,” the sheriff said in the statement. “I require that my staff treat everyone with the utmost dignity and respect.”
The shirts were “on hand and available,” the sheriff explained, as the department had not purchased them and one of the shirts had been used “for several months” prior to Nike’s announced deal with Kaepernick.
Nike sparked a firestorm when it launched advertising with the former San Francisco 49ers player as part of its “Just Do It” 30th anniversary campaign last month.
“We are not, and will not, be influenced by current political and social debates in the media,” he wrote.
“I understand the concern of those who may have found this offensive, and for that I apologize,” Roberts added, saying the sheriff’s office had taken steps to “rectify this issue” so it never happens again.
The letter appeared to still not appease many critics, with some condemning it as a “political statement” and calling on the offending Sheriff’s Department employees to resign. Others, however, called out those looking to create controversy.
“They were using that shirt before Colin Kaps ad. They used that shirt after Colin Kaps ad,” one Facebook user wrote. “People are fishing for stupid fights. Not everything is a political or social statement. It’s a shirt. Geeze.”
“The sheriff has nothing to apologize for. Critics have way too much free time on their hands,” another commented.
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