WASHINGTON: PR advocacy groups have applauded the US Supreme Court's decision to hear Nike's appeal of a California Supreme Court ruling that PR is not free speech.
"We're really gratified that the court will take a deeper view of the extremely crucial issue of continuing to protect the First Amendment for society in general," said PRSA president Reed Byrum. "If the (Supreme) Court upholds the California ruling, corporations and their spokespersons will be silenced."
The California Supreme Court ruled in May that Nike's comments made in a letter to the editor are commercial speech. Nike wrote the letter in response to criticism from activists about Nike's labor practices. The court ruled such speech must be held to the same standard as advertising, as it is intended to promote sales. The court ruled 4-3 that Mark Kasky of San Francisco could sue Nike for its statements disputing workshop-condition accusations.
Kathy Cripps, president of the Council of PR Firms, said her organization will support Nike by continuing to write letters to the editor and ensuring the issue remains "front and center."
"Some publications haven't clearly differentiated the matter as a PR versus ads issue," said Cripps. "Some reports have made it sound like it has to do with advertising. The media often doesn't take the time to differentiate between the two."
Byrum said the PRSA will also focus on writing op-ed pieces and giving speeches "to try and educate our society members and the general public about the First Amendment concerns of this case."
The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of June.