The videotaped death on May 25 of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has served both as a rallying cry for peaceful protests there and in other parts of the world as well as a pretext for riots across the U.S. In major cities still reeling from the Covid-19 quarantine, looters have hit big-box and mom-and-pop stores alike, while insurgents from such groups as Antifa have torched churches, public housing, government offices and other buildings, defaced monuments and even taken over a police precinct. There have been protests around the U.S. embassies of London, Berlin and other foreign cities as well.
Amid the turmoil, several brands in the sporting goods industry have issued statements.
Nike released a minute-long video through its social media channels. In white text on a black field, the company turns its famous three-word slogan on its head: “For once, don’t do it. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism. Don’t accept innocent lives being taken from us. Don’t make any more excuses. Don’t think this doesn’t affect you. Don’t sit back and be silent. Don’t think you can’t be part of the change.”
Nike’s initiative echoed the memorable advertisement that the Swoosh posted in September 2018 to back the attitude of one of his sponsored athletes, Colin Kaepernick, who decided to kneel during the national anthem before an NFL game as a sign of protest against racial injustice in the U.S. The ad resulted in strong sales of Nike products and got subsequently a Creative Arts Emmys award. Kaepernick’s gesture was imitated by policemen who were seen kneeling in front of protesters in the last days to stand by Floyd and to try to mitigate the protesters’ campaigns.
Certain rival brands have retweeted Nike’s video, appending messages of their own. One is Adidas, which adds, “Together is how we move forward. Together is how we make change.” Another brand, Hoka One One, adds: “We fly higher when we fly together.”
The retweet by Brooks Running reads, “The injustice we are witnessing is racism, and it needs to be called by its name. Silence is no longer an option. We don’t have all the answers, but our resolve is strong. Today, we speak up and evaluate how to progress. Next, we step toward the day we all run on equal ground.” In a separate message, the brand writes, “The injustice we are witnessing is racism, and it needs to be called by its name. Silence is no longer an option. We don’t have all the answers, but our resolve is strong. Today, we speak up and evaluate how to progress. Next, we step toward the day we all run on equal ground.”
Foot Locker has both retweeted Nike’s video and released a letter to its staff from the chief executive, Dick Johnson. It reads in part, “While we have stores, offices and team members from different cultures around the world, we are united in our belief that all people are created equal. It is clear that, far too often, society demonstrates that we have failures around that pillar of this country [the U.S.].”
Under Armour has kept things simple on Instagram, posting: “We stand for equality.”
Puma has decided to wade into the American legal system with a donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which covers criminal bail and immigration bonds for people held in detention under criminal arrest before their trial. The fund actually stopped taking donations on June 2, having received a flood of money in recent days, and is redirecting donors to other, like-minded organizations.
Fila has made a similar move, announcing a donation of $100,000 to Black Lives Matter, which was founded in 2013 over the acquittal of George Zimmerman – the man who shot and killed the black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida – and is one of the main associations protesting at present. Fila’s tweet reads, “We will not remain silent on the face of injustice. Today and every day we stand in solidarity with the Black community and we will use our voice to support you as you have always supported us.” Like many other sports brands, Fila a very popular brand in black communities.
Reebok, too, has opted to address a sizeable segment of its customer base. “To the black community: We see you. We stand in solidarity with you. This can no longer be the status quo.” An accompanying Twitter image reads: “Without the black community, Reebok would not exist. America would not exist. We are not asking you to buy our shoes. We are asking you to walk in someone else’s. To stand in solidarity. To find our common ground of humanity.”
New Balance has tweeted, “Today, we’re finding a voice to advocate on issues about which we cannot be silent. No one should live with the fear and perpetual injustice faced daily by communities of color across the United States and around the world.” It is also linking to Change.org, where a petition has been started to “reach the attention of Mayor Jacob Frey and DA [district attorney] Mike Freeman to beg to have the officers involved in this disgusting situation fired and for charges to be filed immediately.”
According to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and other newspapers, however, all four of the police officers at scene have already been fired. Meanwhile, Derek Chauvin, the officer who infamously kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, has been charged with murder and manslaughter. Freeman – whose actual title is county attorney for Hennepin County – is still weighing charges for the other three.