Adidas Responds to Controversy over "Shackled" Shoes

Adidas has apologized for an advertisement that some consider racist. The chains around the shoes are said to be reminiscent of slavery-and prisons, particularly because of the orange color. With the tag line, "a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles," the shoes cost $350. A Washington Post article sums up the "dangerous message" Adidas and other companies are sending: "We want your money, but we aren't concerned with being sensitive to your history, culture and socio-economic plight."


Outrage was rampant on Facebook, with comments such as this one, posted by Antonio Leche: "Slavery isn't a fashion example. Everyone involved in this show should be fired ASAP! This is the new reason I won't buy any Adidas anymore!"

In a statement, Reverend Jesse Jackson voiced his criticism:

"For Adidas to promote the athleticism and contributions of a variety of African-American sports legends -- especially Olympic heroes Wilma Rudolph and Jesse Owens and boxing great Muhammad Ali -- and then allow such a degrading symbol of African-American history to pass through its corporate channels and move toward actual production and advertisement, is insensitive and corporately irresponsible.

"These slave shoes are odious and we as a people should be called to resent and resist them. If put into production and placed on the market, protests and pickets signs will follow. Adidas cannot make a profit at the expense of commercialized human degradation."

Adidas did respond to the criticism, first with this statement:

"The JS Roundhouse Mid is part of the Fall/Winter 2012 design collaboration between Adidas Originals and Jeremy Scott. 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.

"Jeremy Scott is renowned as a designer whose style is quirky and lighthearted and his previous shoe designs for Adidas Originals have, for example, included panda heads and Mickey Mouse. Any suggestion that this is linked to slavery is untruthful."

Of course, this didn't resolve the controversy, so Adidas tried again-and cancelled the shoe release:

"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."

Discussion Starters:

  • What is your view of the Adidas ad? Do you see it as racist, harmless, or something else?
  • How do you assess the company's response? What might have been a better response to the criticism?