Sheriff Ricky Roberts. Facebook

The Union County sheriff’s office has been taking photos of inmates wearing Nike T-shirts for mug shots, a practice noted by a social media activist last night. Before long, the photos were scrubbed from the Internet.

Writer Shaun King, a civil rights activist with a million followers on Twitter, put out the Tweet above last night. Arkansas news outlets jumped in.

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Clara Turnage at the Democrat-Gazette was unable to reach Union County Sheriff Ricky Roberts or anyone else at the sheriff’s office. But she noted that by 9 p.m., less than an hour after King’s post, all inmate photos had been removed from the jail roster. The practice of using Nike athletics shirt photos in mugshots dated back to at least Sept. 15, she wrote. But she noticed at least one item of Nike apparel, a polo shirt with a “swoosh’ logo, was seen as early as July, before the announcement of Kaeperick’s endorsement deal with Nike.

Fox 16 also tried without success to reach the sheriff.


On-line comment was abundant. Didn’t the sheriff have to buy the shirts first?

UPDATE: Cherith Cobb of KTVE has posted a series of Tweets in response from the sheriff. He explains that inmates are allowed to choose shirts from a box to wear for mugshots so they don’t have to appear in jail uniforms. The box includes Nike shirts and they’ve been available for months, he said.


Roberts also issued a letter in response. It said in part:

Matt Mershon of KATV quoted the sheriff:The Democ

Sheriff says “it’s our job to protect people” like Colin Kaepernick and their right to protest. “There was no malice.”

The Democrat-Gazette later reached King and he stood by his assertion that there was a political message intended in the appearance of many Nike shirts around the time the ad controversy developed.