Adidas’ Choice of ‘Hemp’ for Shoe Name

A few weeks ago, I bought a pair of Adidas shoes.

Then I read “Sneaker Madness” (Jan.13), an account in The Times of Adidas President Steve Wynne’s justification of the name Hemp for its new footwear, following a request by Lee Brown, director of the White House’s National Drug Control Policy Office, for Adidas to change the name since “hemp” is also street slang for marijuana. Wynne’s reply to Lee Brown: No one’s “smoking our shoes.”

But hey, we all understand the Steve Wynne philosophy. You can bet Wynne and his guys conducted a creative session to pick up a name that would ping in the mind of his target market. You can bet Wynne’s product clinics on the “Hemp” name produced responses in the “way cool” range from kids he wanted to reach. You can bet he discussed with corporate counsel the downside the name would have, and concluded its street value outweighed any risk. And you can bet Wynne was in on every decision because he’s now so offensively defensive.

Can you imagine Adidas’ ad firm pitching Wynne a campaign for kids prompting the new shoe as one “made from long, straight, natural, recyclable vegetable fibers,” the very words he used to try to sell the Hemp name to Brown, the nation’s drug policy director? Wynne would fire them immediately.


A sure bet is that Steve Wynne is a focused product of a me-first generation that has failed to learn from its parents and predecessors that manners, respect and responsibility are basic tenets having the potential to lead us--and particularly our youth--out of the many corporate and cultural difficulties that surround us today.

If I were an activist, I’d probably call a news conference and publicly burn my Adidas. Having mellowed somewhat, I’ll just let them wear out naturally, and next time buy Nike.




Nothing illustrates our national drug policy’s lack of focus better than drug czar Lee Brown’s attempts to get Adidas to change the name of its Hemp shoe. If zero tolerance means even censuring the word “hemp,” it should also stand for a complete lack of priorities. I agree with Steve Wynne that Mr. Brown’s “time and the taxpayers money could be more appropriately committed” in the battle against drug abuse.

Cannabis sativa, when grown for its fiber (or food, or fuel, or any of its other 40,000 uses) is hemp and not marijuana, and it will not get you high. However, since 1937, our government has gone to great lengths to perpetuate this misconception. Its goal (on behalf of special interests) has been to mislead the public into believing that they are one and the same, thereby ensuring that hemp (and its environmentally friendly alternatives to synthetic products) remains illegal.

We need priorities if we are to make any serious progress toward reducing the harm caused by drug abuse. The answers starts with an honest drug awareness-education program in grade schools that does not revolve around eggs in a frying pan. Then concentrate our limited resources on stemming the flow of hard drugs (crack, cocaine, speed, heroin) and reducing the harm done by them.

It’s sad to think that national policy is still shaped by those who believe in zero tolerance to the point that even the word “hemp” is treated as a gateway word, leading naturally to drug abuse and a life of crime and therefore deserving the attention of top drug officials.


Los Angeles


Using this inane logic, wouldn’t we have seen American kids buying up “weed” whackers and trying to live in “roach” motels?