A letter given to employees of Acura & Volvo of Athens has sparked controversy for informing employees that Nike apparel would no longer be allowed on the premises of the dealership.
“Effective October 1, 2018, wearing any Nike apparel (including shoes) will not be allowed on the premises of Acura & Volvo of Athens. Without getting into detail, let’s just say, this policy is as important to the owner of this dealership as these previously mentioned,” the letter read.
The letter, dated Sept. 20, also asked employees to refrain from talking about politics or religion in the workplace.
Charles Middleton, owner of the dealership, told The Red & Black the move was not a reflection of his or the dealership’s political beliefs but rather a way to avoid confrontation with customers who might be offended.
“I, at all costs, want to protect our employees from any conversation that could get out of hand,” Middleton said.
The letter comes in the wake of a national debate after Nike’s release of an advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick. In 2016, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback triggered a movement within the NFL to protest racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem before football games.
“It’s no different to us than if you start talking about religion and politics,” Middleton said about employees wearing Nike.
Middleton said since the ad’s release, customers have complained about the dealership’s uniforms, including shirts, that feature the Nike logo. In the future, the dealership hopes to purchase uniforms without any branding, Middleton said.
Meka Curry, a University of Georgia employee whose brother works at Acura & Volvo of Athens, posted a picture of the the letter on Facebook. As of press time, Curry’s post had 50 comments and more than 200 shares. The Athens Council on African American Affairs issued a statement on Friday.
Curry said her brother, who had otherwise positive views of his employer, was upset by the policy.