Nike is no stranger to controversy — sometimes even embracing what might cause an uproar. And as a leader of dopeness in shoe design, they also tend to layer meaning into their shoes. Sneakerheads have come to look forward to hidden designs and nuances all over the company’s sneakers, including on the soles where one might think designs would be inconsequential. This time though, Nike says the controversy relating to one of their shoes, the Air Max 270 (and its perceived message) is unintentional. Many in the Muslim community, however, feel that the writing on the sole of the shoe much too closely resembles the word, “Allah,” written in Arabic. And intentional or not, they’re demanding Nike remove the shoes from circulation immediately.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Back in 1997, Muslims also blasted Nike for a design on the back of its “Air Bakin'” shoe that they thought was too close to the Arabic word for “Allah” or “God.” Nike claimed the symbols were just a design that spelled out “air” in a fiery design, but the Muslim community was not having it. In fact, the Council on Islamic-American Relations was about to initiate a worldwide boycott when Nike pulled the 38,000 pairs of shoes from the shelves and donated $50,000 to an Islamic elementary school in the States.
But now, the very same issue has arisen once more. And a Change.org petition is calling for Nike to take the Air Max 270 off of the shelves for good. The petition has more than 27,000 signatures and counting, with petitioner Saiqa Noreen writing that the design on the bottom of the shoe that resembles the word, “Allah,” would “surely be trampled, kicked and become soiled with mud or even filth”. Thus, that it would be “disrespectful and extremely offensive to Muslims and insulting to Islam” to not recall the sneakers.
Nike seems a little less willing to budge this time around. In a statement, the company said the words are just a “stylized representation of Nike’s AIR MAX trademark” and “any other perceived meaning or representation is unintentional…Nike respects all religions and we take concerns of this nature seriously.”
But many Muslims don’t accept that explanation, calling the design “blasphemous and offensive”. It seems the company is taking the concerns seriously, so it will be interesting to see whether the religious group can take on such a huge corporation (and win) for the second time.