Athens dealership bans Nike apparel among workers

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A car dealership in Athens has sparked local debate, after banning Nike shoes and apparel among its employees in what it describes as a way to avoid political debates among coworkers and customers. 

Acura & Volvo of Athens issued a letter to the 46 employees Thursday, from owner Charles Middleton. It states, "I strongly request that politics or religion is not openly discussed...Effective Oct. 1, wearing any Nike apparel (including shoes) will not be allowed on the premises." 

It also states, "As everyone knows, conversations on these topics can sometimes get out of hand."  

Someone shared the letter on Facebook, and it has been shared online hundreds of times. 

"It was designed to protect employees so they would not be confronted with any questions. 'What do you believe in? What do you not believe in?'" said Mr. Middleton in a phone interview with FOX 5, whose dealership has been fielding dozens of calls of praise and backlash. 

Middleton states he's owned the dealership for 27 years. 

"My opinion on what Nike did is totally irrelevant," he said, believing his intentions have been taken out of context as a step into the political debate over Nike. 

Since the athletic brand named former NFL 49ers player Colin Kaepernick as its spokesperson for its 30th anniversary, institutions such as Truett-McConnell University and College of the Ozarks in Missouri have banned the brand among athletes in protest over the controversial figure. 

Supporters have spurred online sales for the brand. 

Some local critics said the dealership should have never addressed the issue surrounding the brand. 

"I think they owe the public an apology," said Paul Garrett, a former employee who said current employees and customers have complained to him. 

The family of one of the workers tells FOX 5, the employee is very offended and plans to find another job.