EL DORADO, Ark. (KNOE) - UPDATE:
Photos of inmates booked at the Union County Jail. | Photos from the Union County Jail website.
Union County Sheriff's Office has responded to the allegations of purposely putting inmates in Nike apparel to mock Nike's deal with Colin Kaepernick.
Union County Sheriff Ricky Roberts said in a statement they used the Nike shirts to cover inmates who were booked without "proper attire." He says some inmates come into jail wearing clothing not suitable for public viewing.
Roberts says the intent was not to "demean or disparage" anyone accused of a crime, and he requires all employees to treat inmates with dignity and respect. The sheriff also apologized to anyone offended by the Nike shirts.
"We are not, and will not, be influenced by current political and social debates in the media," Roberts says. He adds the jail has been using the shirts for months, but plans have been made to discontinue their use.
The Union County Sheriff's Office in El Dorado, Arkansas, is embroiled in controversy after a set of their jail booking photos went viral on Wednesday.
In the photos, several recently booked inmates were photographed wearing shirts with bold NIKE logos across the front. In most cases, the shirts appear to be placed over clothing the inmates were already wearing. In some cases, the covered clothing appears to be orange and white inmate uniforms.
The photos went viral after they were sent to activist Shaun King, who posted on Twitter that he believes someone at the sheriff's office made inmates wear the shirts to mock Nike's deal with Colin Kaepernick. You can see his tweet here. Others suggested that someone at the sheriff's office was trying to take a political stance or trying to associate the Nike brand with criminal activity.
Kaepernick and Nike made headlines in September when Nike announced that Kaepernick would headline their new "Just Do It" campaign. Kaepernick is a controversial former NFL player who in 2016 began kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustices and police brutality. Many people across the county began to boycott Nike after their September announcement.
The controversial photos made up only a small portion of those which were online as of Wednesday, but according to dates listed on the website, most of the inmates entered the jail before Nike announced their deal with Kaepernick. While some inmates were photographed in shirts showing only the small Nike Swoosh logo, at least one person who contacted us says she noticed that those booked after Nike announced the deal were all wearing the exact same shirt.
As of this writing, all inmate photos have been removed from the website that lists bookings in the Union County Jail. Since all photos are now offline, we cannot see how many inmates booked after the Nike deal announcement were photographed without Nike shirts.
The Sheriff in Union County, Arkansas is putting Nike t-shirts on people they arrest and making them wear them during mugshots.— Shaun King (@shaunking) October 11, 2018
Source says it is to mock Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Disgusting. pic.twitter.com/9z9Nw9hxuF