Although Nike clearly stands on the side of those demanding justice for the death of George Floyd, their stores, too, were targets of protesting looters
A delighted looter running out of a Nike in Chicago. Screen grab: Ben Pope/Twitter
By now, looting has spread through many American cities. In Chicago, they struck at Nike. One video, posted on Twitter yesterday, showed a Nike store on Michigan Avenue, where the upscale shopping stretch The Magnificent Mile lies, completely swarmed with people determined to take whatever is inside without paying for them. One black woman, running out and hands filled with what she could carry, was shrieking with delight. Her face showed the satisfaction of perpetrating a crime, not seeing justice served. All around her, the happy looters were black—as much as we could see. Their willfulness and total disregard for damage to property and business is difficult to watch.
Is this protest or rampage?
Nike isn’t a luxury brand (although some products are priced as such), yet it is attracting looters as if there’s the equivalent of the Speedy or Capucines in its stores. In another shocking video—also posted on Twitter—looting was in full swing in Rochester, NY, at the Villa, described as “a lifestyle chain featuring brand-name shoes, clothes and sporting goods”. Amid people rushing out of the store, a black woman emerged with two Nike shoe boxes and other packaged merchandise and moved quickly towards a parked vehicle, left in the middle of the street. The person who shot the video asked her, “Sweetheart, is this your car? Did you leave your car to go get some sneakers?” She got into her automobile, said something not audible to the man, and left. About two minutes into the video, the same woman is seen running back to the store, presumably, to swipe more stuff!
Cleared out: Nike in Chicago after looters had their haul. Photo: Ben Pope
We are not generalising here. The video posts of looting we have seen so far mainly involved people of the black community. This is perplexing and, for those of us from the other side of the world, incomprehensible. Part of the black issue—and experience—is how they are perceived. Or how they are easily the subject of racial profiling, which is clearly unacceptable. But by purloining while protesting, what are they hoping the world to see? Sure, this reflects the economic divide of the society that they live in, but how will breaking into stores to outright steal put the spotlight on their plight? How will the videos of their act—unimaginable in our part of the world, not even in riot-now-the-norm Hong Kong—widely posted and shared, make more people want to champion their cause?
America’s race issues are complicated and are not the discussion we want to take up here. But Nike has been a brand highly supportive of the black community. It has supported black athletes, named lines of shoes after black sportsmen, and even stood on the side of black NFL stars who stuck to what they believed in, even if doing so would incur the wrath of the White House. If Nike is, to this extent, with African-Americans, and is still the brand that the latter enjoys buying, why are those looters, both the black and their allies, creating such indelible damage to the Swoosh? Or, are we being naive?
Nike’s video message. Screen grab: Nike/Twitter
Ironically, Nike came out just a few days ago to state that it is not sitting on the fence, urging its customers and loyalists to do the right thing. In a simple video message than made no mention of the brand, except a tweak on its 30-year-old slogan “Just Do It”, it adjures viewers to “For once, Don’t Do It”. And at the end, a fade-in of the Swoosh. There’s something poignant about the message, enough to prompt rival Adidas to support the post and share it. If Nike could be moved to sending out something this moving, why are its supposed fans responding by looting its stores, and gleefully so?
Nike is, of course, not the only target of the sneaker-raiders. Reports have emerged to say that other brands, including more luxury stores such as Gucci and Alexander McQueen, have been attacked and ransacked. Los Angeles, we hear, is badly affected, with shopping districts such as Melrose and Fairfax vandalised and marauded. Fashion, as it’s been repeatedly said these past months, is in a difficult place. What’s been videoed, Tweeted, and shared in just one weekend could point to something far more dire.
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