It probably looked like a good idea on paper, but Nike has caused quite a stir among the Irish with its latest seasonal shoe.
The new Nike shoe was unofficially dubbed the “Black and Tan” sneaker and the company released the new shoe just ahead of St. Patrick’s Day 2012.
Nike announced plans to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day with the release of the “Nike SB Black and Tan Quickstrike”. The company meant for “Black and Tan” to refer to the St. Patrick’s Day drink made of a mix of stout and lager, usually Guinness and Harp.
The sneaker was set to be released as part of a beer-inspired series, with another shoe being the “Nike SB Dunk High Guinness” colored black like the Irish-brewed beer.
An ad for the new sneaker read as follows:
“Tis the season for Irish beer and why not celebrate with Nike. The Black and Tan sneaker takes inspiration for the fine balancing act of a Stout (Guinness) on top a Pale Ale (Harp) in a pint glass.”
The problem? ”Black and Tan” was also the name of the British military unit who brutally attacked Irish citizens in the 1920s to silence revolutions against British rule, reports the Belfast Telegraph.
The Black and Tans, otherwise known simply as “the Tans,” killed and destroyed on a massive scale. The Catholic cardinal referred to them at the time as “a horde of savages, some of them simply brigands, burglars and thieves.”
Nike issued an apology for the insensitivity of the Black and Tan sneaker:
“This month Nike is scheduled to release a version of the Nike SB Dunk Low that has been unofficially named by some using a phrase that can be viewed as inappropriate and insensitive. We apologize. No offense was intended.”
Ciaran Staunton, President of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, is not quite so easily appeased.
“Is there no one at Nike able to Google Black and Tan?” he said of the gaffe.
The Nike Black and Tan sneaker is set to retail at $90. There is no word on whether the sneakers will be pulled or if the name will be changed. However, some are saying that the problem lies not with the name, but instead with the overall beer theme.
“It’s how the Americans view Saint Patrick’s Day and view Irish culture and history, and it’s the very fact that some people are saying that these are beer-themed sneakers, that the only way to celebrate a national holiday of a country with a very rich culture and a very rich history and literature, et cetera, is to pour massive amounts of alcohol down your body,” said Brian Boyd of the Irish Times. “It’s how the American treat St. Patrick’s Day. So we’re using this story to say, look, it’s the silly Americans, stupid Americans, look what they’re doing again. They’ve got it all wrong.”
- Nike Kicks Up Controversy With ‘Black And Tan’ Shoes (npr.org)
- St Patrick’s Day themed Nike trainers named after British Black and Tans cause outrage (dailymail.co.uk)