Nike Takes Heat for T-Shirt Phrases
George Bernard Shaw famously observed that “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” Unfortunately, the English language doesn’t require a distance over the Atlantic Ocean to create divisions. Go ask Nike.
The athletic apparel maker created a line of t-shirts intended for BMXers, skaters, snowboarders and other X game types to support the launch of its first-ever “Just Do It” campaign focusing on action-sports stars. The shirts have common phrases used by participants in these sports such as “Dope,” “F–k Gravity,” “Get High” and “Ride Pipe” instead of the “Just Do It” slogan above the Nike swoosh. That’s where things got ugly.
An anti-drug group, Oregon Partnership, took exception with phrases and sent letters to 1,500 people including government officials asking them to voice their displeasure with Nike.
“It’s gone past edgy,” Tom Parker, spokesman for the Oregon Partnership, told The Associated Press. “Sure it is the language of skateboarders and surfers, but it’s also the language of addicts.”
The new t-shirts hanging in the window of a Niketown store also got the attention of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino who asked that the display be removed.
“What we don’t need is a major corporation like Nike, which tries to appeal to the younger generation, out there giving credence to the drug issue,” Mr. Menino told the Boston Herald.
“In no way does Nike condone the use of banned or illegal substances,” Nike said in a statement. “This is about sport and being authentic to action sports. The shirts are part of an action sports campaign, featuring marquee athletes using commonly used and accepted expression for performance at the highest level of their sport, be it surfing, skate or BMX.”
- Nike courts controversy, publicity with drug-themed skater shirts – The Oregonian
- Mayor Thomas M. Menino blasts Nike over dopey t-shirts – Boston Herald
- Nike resists Menino’s call to remove crude Back Bay window display – The Boston Globe
- Nike faces antidrug backlash to shirts – The Associated Press/Long Island Press
- Oregon Partnership
- Nike Unveils “The Chosen,” Its First Ever Action Sports ‘Just Do It’ Campaign – Nike
- Nike Tries to Enter the Niche Sports It Has Missed – New York Times
Discussion Questions: Did Nike make a mistake with its new line of t-shirts? What do you think it should do now?