The largest no-kill dog shelter in the Southeast faced withering social media backlash Thursday over its founder’s stance on Nike sneakers.
Big Dog Ranch Rescue temporarily took down its Twitter and Facebook pages Thursday as a torrent of negative posts appeared. The online comments were sharply critical of Simmons’ decision, as reported in The Palm Beach Post, that Lauree Simmons, the organization’s founder, banned employees from wearing Nike products and offered to buy new sneakers for employees who have Nikes.
Simmons’ decision was a rebuke of the athletic-apparel company’s viral ad campaign featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick launched a kneel-down protest during the playing of the national anthem before NFL games.
The protests have been condemned by President Donald Trump and have sparked pushback from football fans and the public. The players participating in the protests have drawn angry criticism from conservatives and some veterans groups.
The animal-rescue group clarified its stance Thursday afternoon in the face of outrage on social media, with Big Dog Ranch spokesman Chase Scott telling The Post the organization would allow employees and volunteers to wear Nike gear. Simmons’ offer was personal and optional, he said.
“She understands it’s a free country,” Scott said.
Big Dog Ranch’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were down for about an hour before coming back online Thursday afternoon. When they did, a statement was posted soon after to each.
“Big Dog Ranch Rescue has saved over 27,000 dogs and that is our only mission,” the Facebook post read. “The founder’s personal offer to replace Nike shoes for those employees who wish to participate was not political and was intended to honor Veterans. It was a personal offer from the founder at her own expense and is not an employee policy. The founder’s father was an Air Force Veteran and the organization is proud to work with PTSD Veterans and supports those individual’s and their families who sacrifice for our country.”
The backlash on Facebook and Twitter was swift.
“Nike donates thousands of dollars worth of compression shorts to the VA hospital where I volunteer to help amputees reduce the risk of blood clots,” one Twitter user wrote. “Stick to animal rescue. Stop hurting the companies who actually help vets with your attention-seeking virtue signaling.”
“No Nikes = no adoptions,” wrote another.
On Facebook, the group seemed to delete the negative comments as quickly as they were posted.
“For all the good you appear to do, your Nike ban seems triflin’,” one Facebook user replied to Big Dog’s statement. “I’m sure the money you are spending to buy sneakers could be used to provide support for the dogs. Such a pity that you have shown yourself in this way. I will certainly continue to donate and support rescue organizations, just not this one. Free speech is our American right.”
The article also received more than 100 comments on The Post’s website, and more than 300 comments on The Post’s Facebook page as of 2:20 p.m. Thursday.
“If someone wants to adopt a dog and they come in wearing Nike, are you not gonna let that person rescue an animal?” one Facebook user asked.
While many decried Simmons’ decision, others came to the rescue’s defense. “A lot of liberals may do that but not real people,” one person said of a possible boycott.
“As if she hasn’t put her personal money towards the ranch……..She’s allowed to use her personal money as she wishes,” another said.
The backlash comes at a pivotal moment for the rescue group as it seeks local fosters to help make way for pets arriving from the path of Hurricane Florence, which is forecast to make landfall in the Carolinas and Georgia on Friday morning. About 20 dogs arrived at the rescue’s Loxahatchee Groves campus Wednesday.
Big Dog Ranch has gained support over the years from major donors. Country music star Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City Fund placed dogs in need from hurricane-ravaged Caribbean islands following hurricanes Irma and Maria with the rescue.
Palm Beach Post staff writer Alexandra Clough contributed to this report.