UNION COUNTY, Ark. (KATV) — Some Arkansans are looking for answers after a viral post on social media showed Union County, Arkansas inmates wearing Nike T-shirts.
Writer and civil rights activist Shaun King shared the photo on social media, saying its source claims it is to mock the ad campaign with Nike and Colin Kaepernick. King's tweet had more than 6,200 retweets and 8,200 likes and 21,000 reactions and 24,600 shares on Facebook as of approximately noon Thursday.
On the other hand, the sheriff tells KATV "it's our job to protect people" like Kaepernick and their right to protest, explaining there was no malice meant in the use of the shirts.
The sheriff says there were 193 inmates in the jail as of Thursday morning and 20 of those inmates had their mugshot taken in the Nike shirt.
According to the Union County jail roster, it appeared Wednesday night that the photos of inmates had been removed. Sheriff Roberts says regardless of the intent, "we obviously offended some people" and that's the reason the jail roster was wiped of mugshots.
Read the sheriff's full statement below:
"It has come to my attention that shirts worn by individuals booked into our facility have been deemed offensive by certain individuals. It is not our intent, nor has it ever been our intent, to demean or disparage those who are innocent until proven guilty. I require that my staff treat everyone with the utmost dignity and respect. This being said, there are many times individuals enter our facility that lack proper attire during the booking process. In an attempt to provide those individuals with a sense of dignity, along with providing a photograph which is appropriate for public viewing, we provide these individuals with clothing to wear.
"It has been brought to my attention that there are those who feel that one of our shirts of choice may be viewed as inappropriate. Please understand, I require that this office treats everyone equally and equitably within the law. We are not, and will not, be influenced by current political and social debates in the media. Also, these shirts were not purchased by the Sheriff’s Office to be used for this purpose, but were simply on hand and available. We are charged with one simple duty; uphold the law, and keep the peace. This shirt is not only in use now, but has also been for several months prior. We have taken steps to rectify this issue and insure that this will never happen again. I understand the concern of those who may have found this offensive, and for that I apologize."
Sheriff Roberts tells me 193 inmates are currently in the Union County Detention Facility. Only 20 inmates had mugshot taken with Nike shirt on. Sheriff says he doesn’t like doing booking photos in inmate jumpsuit. Says makes people look guilty before proven innocent. @KATVNews— Matt Mershon (@MattMershonKATV) October 11, 2018
Sheriff Roberts tells KATV the Nike shirts were from the jail's lost and found box and were not required for inmates to wear.