Nike Removes Product After Accusations of Promoting Gang Culture
Nike has its damage control department working overtime this week as a result of its latest product. The company started promoting its new headgear with an image that depicted a black model with various tattoos wearing a balaclava and two dangling straps.
Some Twitter users were quick to call Nike out for what they felt was an insensitive exploitation of gang culture.
This is a disgrace #Nike marketing Gang Culture a £70 Balaclava. #knifecrime is out of control especially in London. Gang Culture is becoming out of control. This is disgusting gang culture fashion for profit. I can’t believe this is happening ! pic.twitter.com/w2gtAVK7Vt
— Pete Price (@PeteCityPrice) August 20, 2018
Hey @nike what are you thinking with this image on your website? Is he wearing a balaclava and a holster? I wonder what's meant to go in there🤔🔪
Don't act like you don't know there's a knife crime issue in London right now. You're not allowed to be this stupid. pic.twitter.com/7gEk1oKhkI
— David Riley (@DRileyamusing) August 19, 2018
According to USA Today, the item is part of the Nike x MMW collection, which is a collaboration with sneaker designer Matthew M. Williams. As of yesterday, the product has been removed from Nike's website.
Some came to Nike's defense, saying that critics are being too sensitive, and that face masks are used for non-gang-related activities like skiing or cold-weather running. Still, the photo Nike used to promote the product incited a reaction, with some commenters pointing out that the balaclava's straps could be mistaken for gun holsters
Nike's faux pas, if we can call it that, is reminiscent of Puma's recent marketing misstep. The company hosted a promotional party that was accused of glamorizing youth drug culture. The House of Hustle party gifted attendees a Puma shoe box with fake £50 notes, burner phones and a business card with instructions to "turn on the trapline."
In Nike's case, it seems more honest mistake than an incendiary marketing. But it wouldn't hurt if sportswear brands in general stick to their core brand identity rather than trying to be "relevant" with hot-button marketing campaigns.