Barraged by expressions of outrage, Adidas announced Monday evening that it’s pulling a shoe design that critics say evokes slavery.
The design, by eccentric Beverly Hills designer Jeremy Scott, features a plastic set of shackles. Initially it was met with disbelief, then fury, especially in online arenas. On Twitter, the shoes were labeled “Adidas slave shackle kicks.” Talk of a boycott arose.
Early Monday, Adidas defended the shoes as the handiwork of a whimsical designer. By early evening, the shoe giant found itself in a public relations nightmare and announced that it had made a mistake.
The Adidas statement reads, in part: “The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery. Since the shoe debuted on our Facebook page ahead of its market release in August, Adidas has received both favorable and critical feedback. We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”
Efforts to reach Scott on Monday were unsuccessful. But on Twitter, he suggested that the inspiration for his shoe came from a 1990s cartoon and toy, My Pet Monster.
New York Observer is firmly in Scott’s corner, calling the uproar a media-manufactured controversy.
To be sure, many people online applauded the shoes and rolled their eyes at those who saw racism in the shackles. But even critics who didn’t see racism said the sneakers were in poor taste: “Those Adidas shackle sneakers are a product of rappers glamorizing criminal behavior & prison for years,” said one tweet.
The image of the shoes was posted on Adidas’ Facebook page earlier, along with this seemingly benign query: “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?”
But controversy soon began to boil over. Here are just a few of the online comments from Facebook and Twitter:
- “Our ancestors fought blood, sweat and tears just so fools can turn pain into an accessory?”
- “These should be taken off the market.”
- “Any designer that’s nostalgic for slavery will Never have my support.”
The “shackle” shoe is part of a whimsical line that also features sneakers accented with teddy bears, butterfly wings and belt buckles.
Adidas is not the only sneaker brand to put its foot in its mouth. Earlier this year, Nike found itself facing controversy over its Black & Tan shoes, which some took as a reference to British abuse of Irish citizens in the 1920s. Nike apologized.
Earlier Monday, David M. Carter, head of the USC Sports Business Institute, told the Los Angeles Times that the uproar over the shackle sneakers could lead to the design’s demise.
Looks like the people have spoken.