Race been intricately intertwined with sport throughout history and has been used to break down some of the most ominous barriers. Moments like those of the 1968 Olympics or the 1995 Rugby World Cup demonstrate the power sport wields to transcend social injustice and bridge racial divides. More than a tool for civil rights, many athletes have testified about the power of sport in their own lives- creating opportunities, inspiring dreams and sparking ambition. And for many African- American athletes, the experiences that have most dramatically shaped their lives often hinge on both race and sport. To then be offered a product that, in my opinion, mocks two hot-button social injustices that disproportionately affect African- Americans- slavery and incarceration- is deplorable.
So I have one question: HOW did this make it off the drawing board??? I find it quite disturbing that, throughout what is typically an 18-month footwear development process, the Adidas leadership team failed to recognize the disastrous connotation this design embodies. It took anuproar from the public, proliferated via social and nationally syndicated media, to cause Adidas- a company that claims to be “committed to producing original, forward-thinking products”- to question the viability and marketability of this shoe. Quite backwards, to say the least. A global brand, or anyone for that matter, cannot afford to be so future-oriented that it fails to reflect on the past and what bearings it may have on the present and future. Slavery is certainly an issue with an infinite forward reach, as it defines nearly 300 years of black culture in America; incarceration continues to disproportionately plague African-Americans to this day.
Our society cannot take lightly the intricacies of race and how it has become so deeply entrenched in every facet of humanity, sport and fashion included. Adidas made the right decision in withdrawing its plans to make the shoes available for purchase this summer, but only time will tell if that will be enough to preempt a loss of market share on account of offending and alienating a demographic that makes up a significant portion of the basketball shoe market.