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'Slave' imagery? Controversy over Adidas' new 'shackle' shoes

June 18, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • Adidas' new shoe line is kicking up controversy: Some say this design, by Jeremy Scott, evokes painful slave imagery.
Adidas' new shoe line is kicking up controversy: Some say this design,… (Designer Jeremy Scott )

Adidas and eccentric Beverly Hills designer Jeremy Scott are under fire for a new shoe design that critics say calls up painful images of slavery.

The shoes come with a set of plastic shackles, and a tag line on Adidas' Facebook page strikes a playful tone: "Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?"

But others aren't laughing and have taken to social media to lament the design, due out in August.

"Our ancestors fought blood, sweat and tears just so fools can turn pain into an accessory?" went one post on the sneaker giant's Facebook page. Another urged: "these should be taken off the market."

And on Twitter: "any designer that's nostalgic for slavery will Never have my support."

Efforts to reach Scott were unsuccessful. But an Adidas representative defended the design in a statement to the Los Angeles Times: "The design ... is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery."

Not everyone is offended by the design, part of a whimsical line that also features sneakers accented with teddy bears, butterfly wings and belt buckles.

"It's fashion. Just shoes. That's all it is. And they are dope," one person wrote on Adidas' Facebook wall.

The controversy follows on the "heels" of Nike's Black & Tan controversy earlier this year.

David M. Carter, head of the USC Sports Business Institute, told the Los Angeles Times that this controversy could potentially block the release of the Adidas shoe.

"As offensive as the shoe may be to many, ultimately, 'distaste' is in the eye of the shareholder as they will weigh in -- if not determine -- the appropriateness of this product. Public sentiment, pressure from advocacy groups, and media coverage will also contribute heavily to management’s decision to continue to market or pull the product."

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+ or Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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