Promotion or profit? Big retailers offer items for Black History Month

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Gian Carlo Baldonado, Staff Writer

With the observance of Black History Month this February, Nike announced its special collection of shoes that it posits to honor and celebrate Black heritage. But not everyone is impressed with the stylish footwear.

The new 10-product line, which includes BHM editions of Nike LeBron 14, Nike Kyrie 3, and Nike KD 9, features ebony and ivory blendings accentuated with gold to represent “unity.”

Nike says that a portion of the proceeds will go to Ever Higher Fund, which helps bring sports to African American youths and their neighborhoods.
“That’s pretty cool [Nike] is reaching out to help Black communities,” freshman Maya Peyton said.

Senior Breanna Hilliard says that the collection is a way to highlight African American culture and show support towards Blacks.

But along with the praise, the footwear company has also received negative feedback about the collection.

Some students say that the Black History Month collection is another way for Nike to profit instead of promoting Black culture.

“[Nike] is already a billion-dollar company, and it is already profiting off of shoes that aren’t specifically for Black History Month,” junior Maya Price said. “What’s the problem [with giving all] those specific profits Nike gains from its Black History Month collection to Black communities?”

“It seems like Nike is taking advantage of the opportunity to gain money, and it is not right,” senior Cameron McCants said. “It goes against the point of Black History Month — pocketing any money from the exclusive BHM collection.”

This is not the first time Nike has made a line of shoes for Black History Month.

According to the Nike News website, since 2005, Nike has given a yearly nod to African Americans and their heritage through limited-edition footwear, apparel, and accessories.

The 2016 collection showcased vibrant Pan African-inspired colors with geometric outlines that are inspired by Black athletes such as Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant and Sanya Richard-Ross.

Economics teacher Kathy Scott argues that Nike should focus on publicizing African Americans athletes who have undergone difficulties in their lives.

“The main purpose [of showcasing someone during Black History Month] is to see the struggles of these individuals trying to be who they are,” Scott said. “Why doesn’t Nike have somebody like Jackie Robinson who had to beat the barriers back then?”

Nike is among the many other brands and companies who celebrate Black History Month with special deals, exclusive products, or creative commercial reminders of the empowering aspects of Black culture.

Adidas, Puma, and Jordan have also released shoes exclusively for Black History Month, and as more companies — not just top footwear brands — jump into the consumer-driven bandwagon, some people fear that consumerism will debase the meaning of the observance.

“I feel like [consumerism] takes away the real purpose of Black History Month: celebrating important African Americans and what they have done for the African American culture and community,” Price said.

Others don’t mind consumerism intermingling with the movement at all.

“I’m indifferent with [consumerism] seeping into Black History Month,” Hilliard said. “Big companies have to make money somehow, and they all use different themes, such as the NFL during football season, to sell certain items.”

“If someone is going to gain from [consumerism] other than the [companies themselves] and no one is going to be hurt by it, why not?” Scott said.

Although people’s opinions differ on whether consumerism is a beneficial aspect of Black History Month, one opinion they all have in common is that an ideal way to celebrate Black heritage is to acknowledge the difficulties of African Americans in the past and contribute to Black communities that are struggling today.