Nike: Winged Goddess of Black People

PK NOTE: The best breakdown of the marriage between Nike and Black people is found in this marketing presentation. The marketing strategy by Nike — to make Negro Fascism cool through commercials and huge billboards –has in turn created a herd-mentality for the swoosh product among the Black Undertow.  

We find this passage in Swoosh: Looking Black at Nike, Moses, and Jordan in the ’80s:

In his book, Sole Provider: Thirty Years of Nike Basketball, sportswriter “Scoop” Jackson makes a bold assertion about the marriage of two corporate entities (the NBA and Nike) and the role of the athlete in this:

“For thirty years a large part of the game’s life has been vicariously thru not just the sport, but the culture of the sport. Thru the shoes, the players, the commercials. Thru the drama, the icons, the history…A presence unparalleled, unmatched, unheard of and unseen by anyone. Instilled in the minds of millions: nothing can be accomplished, no success earned without the shoes.”

Is this why Black people rioted nationwide for a pair of overpriced Air Jordan’s?

The 2011 Air Jordan Black Riots

It was back in 1990 that Jesse Jackson decided to wage war on Nike, a company that had already gone all-in on promoting Black athletes with huge marketing campaigns that made Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Bo Jackson household names. To Black people, this wasn’t enough:

For days now, the image of Jesse Jackson has hovered over the Rev. Tyrone Crider as he sits in the Chicago offices of Operation PUSH, devising a boycott of Nike Inc., the athletic shoe giant. For Mr. Crider and the civil rights organization he heads, it is their biggest test since Mr. Jackson, the group’s founder and soul, left for Washington last year.

As the group approaches its 20th year, it has a new leader, a new target and a familiar tactic. In demanding that the company promote more blacks and do more business with black-owned companies, PUSH is taking on perhaps the most visible emblem in the lives of inner-city youths, for whom Nike has become a virtual uniform.


In calling for the boycott, PUSH is repeating a tactic it has used, often successfully, in affirmative action struggles with other corporations.

The group’s officials say they are unhappy with the entire athletic wear industry but have chosen Nike because it is the leader. The company has no blacks on its board of directors, no black vice presidents and it does little or no business with black companies, although it draws much of its $2.2 billion in revenue from black customers, PUSH officials say.

The group called for the boycott on Aug. 12 after negotiations broke down. Among the many things the two sides differ on is the market that is at stake. Nike officials say blacks account for only 14 percent of the company’s total sales. Operation PUSH believes black customers make up closer to 30 percent.

The company announced this week that it would appoint a minority member to its board, name a black vice president and more black department heads in the next year or two, but it also maintained that the moves had little to do with Operation PUSH.

”These were priorities for ’91,” said Liz Dolan, spokeswoman for Nike. ”People want to know how much a priority. The best way to show that is to attach a timetable to it.”

Mr. Crider said he sees little difference between the Nike boycott and the boycott of the Montgomery bus system by blacks seeking access to the front of the bus in 1955. ”If black folk in Montgomery could be disciplined enough to not ride the bus for a year,” Mr. Crider said, ”surely African Americans, over time and through education, can be disciplined enough not to run in Nike shoes for as long as it takes.”

But blacks did not have the seemingly metaphysical attachment to buses that teen-agers have to Nike shoes. While both sides agree that it is too early to assess the effectiveness of the boycott, the other evening outside a Foot Locker shoe store near Chicago’s South Side, the Nike logo was on nearly every young customer’s foot.

Flash-forward 20 years. Black people’s predilection for showing off their poverty by purchasing Nike products has been crystallized by the now infamous 30+ city Air Jordan Riots over Christmas 2011. This wasn’t isolated behavior; this was nationwide 365Black behavior on display courtesy of Black people showing us once again why white flight transpires instantly in any city that gets a little too dark.

Sadly, Foot Locker dedicating resources to become the official shoe provider of Black people has been disastrous for their bottom line in the long run. Indeed, the only business that went 365Black and saw monetary rewards has been McDonald’s, only because of Black people’s notorious inclination for not passing on seconds.

Any city, county, mall, or company (save McDonald’s) that goes 365Black is doomed financially, and even Nike has been attacked by Black people for not going far enough — this was back in 1990 when Jackson and Jordan represented the public face of Nike!! — to satisfy Organized Blackness.

Well, Nike has done some serious outreach to the Black community (specifically the Black Undertow, who rely on the government to pay for housing, food, incarceration, and TANF/Welfare) evidenced by the creation of the Black History Month shoe in 2011:

Nike challenged seniors at Miami’s Booker T. Washington High School, to create their own artistic expression regarding Black History Month through the art of spoken word. The finalists composed an original spoken word piece to interpret this period drawing upon such pivotal moments including the Civil Rights Movement. A panel of celebrities including popular Miami Heat disk jockey DJ Irie, former NBA athlete Alonzo Mourning, spoken word poet Ruth Tuffit and Nike representatives announced the contest winners.

Jazmine Snyder, the first place winner received a $1000 scholarship, and both Staresha Charles and Walter Peterson are the Second and Third place winners who each received a $500 scholarship. All three will also receive a pair of the limited edition Black History Month Air Force 1 shoes.

bhmside Exclusive: Nike Black History Month 2009 Air Force 1 Photos + High School Spoken Word Contest At booker T. Washington
The Black History Month Nike shoe!

Sneaker Info: The Air Force 1 shoe is one of Nike’s most revered and iconic models. This limited-edition version is not for sale but rather a special product, proudly displaying the colors of the African American flag. Rich black leathers have been chosen to represent the essence of all color. Contrast stitching has been used to show an energetic pop of pride and perseverance. The centennial logo honors the long and rich history of the African American culture. Forty-four stars circle the outer perimeter of the logo to represent the celebration of the first African American to represent a people as well as the American government. The Swoosh has a luxury material of metallic black leather and the outsoles are marbleized like the courtrooms of the US Supreme Court – the place where many civil rights battles were fought and won.

Those glorious Civil Rights battles that were fought and won so that we could see the true soles of Black folks over the 2011 Christmas weekend, courtesy of Nike! The culmination of the dream of equality was truly on display in every city with a mall where a Foot Locker was still opened. It didn’t matter if it was Richmond, Virginia or Richmond, California, Black people stabbed, shot, kicked, screamed, ran, beat, and waged a mini-war with police and mall plexiglass in a bid to spend $180 on a pair of Nike shoes.

Doesn’t a single Black female only have a median net worth of $5? That’s 36 times what your average Black female is worth! How in the world could she possibly acquire such a luxury item? Oh, you — the tax-payer — pay for her food, housing, and welfare.
Worse, your average Black family is only worth around $5,677. Spending $180 on a pair of shoes for one child represents three percent of that number; imagine if they have two or three children to provide socially-acceptable foot-wear in the Black Undertow schoolrooms across America?

Back in 1999, the Journal of Sport and Social Issues published an article detailing Nike’s marketing strategy to Black people. It’s not available online, but here’s the abstract:

An increase in the size and resources of the Black consumer market has prompted many organizations to increase their understanding of the challenges of devising marketing communications to appeal to Black consumers. The influence of culture on communication strategies aimed at ethnic groups has long been realized by marketers and advertising professionals. However, what remains a challenge is the means of adapting an effective (yet nonoffensive) culturally-based approach of marketing communication. Given the salience of sport to Blacks, this is a challenge that sport organizations should also address as they devise ways of advertising and communicating sport products and services to Black consumers. This article will employ the tenets of symbolic interactionism, to analyze Nike’s advertisements as vehicles to communicate with Black audiences.

Nonoffensive means of effective communication to the Black community? How would images that show Black people in more than 30 cities across the country storming Foot Locker’s with the determination of the rampaging army (well, an army more interested in inflicting casualties on one another in the bid for the holy grail of Nike’s yearly output) fit into that strategy?

For all those who want to say, “but white people do it,” please understand that there has never been a New Balance riot, nor has there ever been a TOMS riot (you know, that shoe company that gives a free pair of shoes to some third world kid with ever purchase of a shoe).

Nike attempted damage control by issuing this statement denouncing the soles of Black folk nationwide (h/t Lawrence Auster on that hilarious truism):

Nike is decrying the shopping frenzies and subsequent police arrests over the release of its Air Jordan XI shoes Friday.

“We are extremely concerned to hear of the reported crowd incidents around the launch of the Air Jordan XI at some select retail locations,” said Brian Facchini, spokesman for Nike’s Jordan brand in a statement Friday night. “Consumer safety and security is of paramount importance. We encourage anyone wishing to purchase our product to do so in a respectful and safe manner.”

The retail launch of the retro version of one of the most popular Air Jordans kicks ever sparked mayhem across the country two days before Christmas. The shoes retail for around $180. But that didn’t stop Black Friday-like sneaker madness as consumers pushed, fought and trampled each other over the shoes.

In Indianapolis, shoppers stormed a mall, trampling fellow consumers and ripping a door off its hinges. In Seattle, police used pepper spray on about 20 shoppers fighting over the shoes. A man was stabbed in a brawl over the shoes in Jersey City, N.J. He’s expected to recover.

Lost in 2011 riots that were overwhelmingly a Black Undertow phenomenon is that in both 2009 and 2010, these riots took place as well. There’s one man responsible for turning Nike into the unofficial apparel provider of the Black Undertow, and his name is Sonny Vaccaro:

It’s this kind of treatment that brings Vaccaro grief from the critics. It’s also an indication of how much is different from the day he signed Michael Jordan for Nike and changed marketing forever. Sonny barely knew Jordan until right before the 1984 draft. But once MJ morphed into Air Jordan, it became Sonny’s job to find the next great salesman. By the late ’90s, sneaker companies were inviting 14-year-olds to their camps and travel teams.

Let’s hope that Vaccaro saw the footage from Detroit, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, Richmond (both locations), and all the other cities where the Black Undertow overwhelmed law, order, and decency for all to see over Christmas 2011. He made millions off of providing cheaply made swag to the Black Undertow; in one day, he inadvertently helped augment the ranks of Those Who Can See with the Black Riots of 2011 over Air Jordan’s.

Nike: The Winged Goddess of Black People. Life in Black-Run America (BRA) sure can be funny.

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