A sheriff's department in Arkansas has found itself at the centre of a storm of criticism as a number of their inmates have been pictured wearing Nike t-shirts in mugshots.

It was not immediately apparent why they were wearing the sports brands apparel in the pictures but it has been suggested that it is an attempt to mock the NFL star and activist Colin Kaepernick, who recently signed a deal with Nike.

Civil rights activist Shaun King tweeted a picture on Thursday on the inmates in Nike t-shirts, which his source claimed was an attempt by the sheriff in Union County to mock the company and Kaepernick.

CBS reports that an hour after King posted the pictures online, they were removed from the sheriff's website.

Subsequently, Ricky Roberts, the Union County Sheriff, has explained that clothing is given to inmates and there is no intention to "demean or disparage."

In a statement shared on Facebook Roberts said:

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, no 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.

He adds:

It has been brought to my attention that there are those who feel that one of our shirt 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 apologise.

Kaepernick's activism has been a source of much discussion and debate in the United States since 2016 after the footballer decided to kneel during the national anthem before a game in protest to police brutality.

Although the 30-year-old is not currently playing for a team in the NFL he was used as the figurehead of a landmark advert for Nike in September which prompted mass boycotts against the company.

HT Daily Mail

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