Just don’t buy it.
Above or beyond that, you hardly need conjure up any additional paraphrased memories or comparisons of the classic, industry gold-standard Nike ad campaign of yesteryear to symbolize just how much heated rival Adidas has missed the mark with its latest blitz.
Late Monday, the company still sought to justify the “handcuffs” design and creation of its JS Roundhouse mid-sneakers, which come equipped with day-glo plastic orange ankle bracelets made to resemble slave chains or, at best, prison ankle shackles by simply classifying it as a “unique take on fashion.”
“The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery,” the sneaker giant added in an official company statement." Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted. Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful.”
End of debate. End of story. End of all culpability. African-American history be damned, Adidas is progressive and accommodating enough to fight until the end for your right to be in the moment cool and blissfully fashionable— provided, of course, you’re willing and able to shell out the $350 base price.
“Got a sneaker game so hot you lock kicks to your ankles,” its tagline tantalizes, ideally building even more anticipation as its mid-August targeted release day fast approaches.
It’s no secret that basketball easily reigns as the sport of choice among most blacks and to know much of anything at all about NBA hoops is to not be stunned over numbers bearing out African-Americans now constitute well over 80 percent of its populous. And yet, to a man, I can’t imagine any single one of them truthfully testifying that their game stands to improve even by the smallest of fractions by virtue of having them strap chains around their ankles and essentially turn their backs on one of the most storied chapters of our evolving history.
As a Facebook protestor and one of more than 2,000 advocates now calling for a full-scale company boycott lamented: “How would a Jewish person feel if Nike decided to have a shoe with a swastika on it and tried to claim it was OK in the name of fashion?”
Added another: “I have renamed the shoes the Adidas Amistad Originals” or the “Adidas Kunta Kinte.” Read still another post, “where does the respect begin and end for our people?”
Indeed, do not corporate giants with the strength and size of Adidas no longer shoulder any degree of social responsibility or consciousness? And why were the thoughts and reflections of the likes of Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, A-team brand endorsers, apparently not at all considered pre-product launch?
Syracuse University economics professor Boyce Watkins finds himself pondering many of the exact same issues. “Shackles… the stuff that our ancestors wore for 400 years while experiencing the most horrific atrocities imaginable, most of which were never documented in the history books and kept away from you in the educational system, all so you would be willing to put shackles on your ankles today and not be sensitive about it,” he wrote in a blistering blog.
“I am offended by these shoes because there is nothing funny about the prison industrial complex,” he added. “It’s the most genocidal thing to happen to the black family since slavery itself. The black family has ripped itself apart because so many of our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons are locked away in prison, leaving their children vulnerable to all the horrible things that happen when the man of the house is away. As they say, an educated mind makes you unfit for slavery.”
It was Fredrick Douglass who waxed nearly two centuries ago how power never has and never will concede anything without demand. Armed with the power of all our vast dollars in bolstering a sneaker industry that now annually grosses upwards of $20 billion, we now have to demand better of Adidas and any other merchant who would likewise dare to degrade and disrespect us.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.