SNEAKER VIOLENCE AROUND THE NATION:
A PREZI ESSAY by Zachary Gopaul
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” These words come from Orson Welles who was an American film director and producer. Unfortunately, many people today do not have their own unique sense of style and always want to follow trends. The terms “dead stock” and “hypebeast” may not mean much to the average person, but to a “sneakerhead,” these words are a part of everyday vocabulary. “Sneakerhead" is an American colloquialism for a person who collects rare, limited or exclusive shoes, which they refer to as “kicks.” Usually the collection includes many shoes from the Jordan brand. "Sneakerheads" have a vast knowledge about not only the shoes in their closets, but also all shoes being bought and sold. These collectors frequent many sneaker releases in which people have to line up for or win raffles in order to make a purchase. Since many of these sneaker releases are sometimes in limited quantity, the events often involve violence. One of the most popular brands that causes violence are Jordans which are produced by Nike. Though I am a sneaker collector myself, I think that is terrible how people end up losing their lives over sneaker releases. Something has to be done to stop the violence over such material items.
Complex is a website that focuses on trends, music, and fashion. They always have what is most popular in the music and fashion world. One post on this website that stood out to me was titled “Sneaker Violence 2014: Are Your Shoes Worth Your Life” by Dexter Gordon. Gordon describes an Atlanta teenager named Joshua Lofton who was shot this past October after trying to allegedly steal a pair of Air Jordan’s during a Craigslist transaction. Just last month, a 15-year old boy was robbed in Arlington, VA for a pair of Foamposites, while videos of people brawling inside sneaker stores over the Gamma XIs have become an Internet sensation. More recently, a 20-year old Chicago man was shot and killed as he tried to buy a pair of $1,800 Air Yeezy’s. All of these examples are high profile Nikes. Gordon shows that this is not an issue in only one state or region of the country. The problem is that these sneakers become so exclusive that if they are not purchased on the release date, then they can’t be purchased for retail again. Many people do not have money to pay above retail and resort to violence instead for these markers of wealth and prestige.
Sneakers connect with sports since the majority of the sneaker violence happens around brands that current and former sports players endorse like Lebron James and Michael Jordan. One of the most popular sports websites is ESPN because it talks about the significance of some sneaker releases and the milestone that was set by the athletes who are enshrined by such sneakers. According to ESPN analyst, Jemele Hill, Nike needs to put an end to the violence. Nike always says they are concerned about the violence that happens every time a sneaker is released, but they never do anything to prevent it. Instead Nike only verbally condemns the violence, but, ironically, financially benefits from all the hype at the same time. "We are extremely concerned to hear of the reported crowd incidents around the launch of the Air Jordan XI at some select retail locations," said Brian Facchini, spokesman for Nike's Jordan brand, in an email statement to USA Today and others. Another Nike statement proclaims: "Consumer safety and security is of paramount importance. We encourage anyone wishing to purchase our product to do so in a respectful and safe manner." This was a statement released by Nike in 2011 when the Air Jordan Concords were re-released after many years. While Nike does address the issue, it never fully takes action to prevent violence from happening. Hill shows us how the brand does not fully take responsibility, arguing that brands like Nike are only concerned with making money off the public and not safety.
Sneaker violence has even caught the attention of Good Morning America. In the video “Violence Erupts Across the Country Around Release of Nike Air Jordans” by Christina Ng and Olivia Katrandjian on ABC news, the reporters talk about how many people line up expecting to make a purchase, but go home empty handed. It is crazy how thousands of people line up but quantity is so limited that many people get irritated. This video also does a great job of giving examples of specific sneaker violence incidents in different parts of the country. It informs people that they should be more careful when lining up for releases. In Seattle, police used pepper spray to break up fights between customers. "Police showed up ... somebody went in the side door and pushed through the front door and lost our place in line and we're at the back of the line," one shopper said. "We were in the front of the line, then we got bombarded in and now we don't have any," said another shopper, who came out of the store empty-handed. In Atlanta, at least four people were arrested in a mob scene at a suburban mall. In Florida, police used pepper spray on unruly shoe seekers and fights were reported in Kentucky; glass was shattered at stores in North Carolina. "People started getting restless, so they cracked open the doors and next thing you know people started getting trampled and bum-rushed -- the doors fell on some girls' heads and ... it was horrible, it was real bad," said a man in Charlotte. ABC is a great source because it makes the public aware of what is going on with videos on sneaker violence and why it is a growing problem.
Nike is trying to decrease the amount of violence at sneaker releases by increasing security and having more police at malls available to control crowds. They have also thought of the idea of only selling sneakers online. The problem is that there is software that can automatically check out certain items into your shopping cart. This means that shoppers who wake up early to try and get an online release have no chance due to the “Bots” or automatic carting software.
Sneaker violence is clearly a growing problem that is caused by both the consumers and the Nike brand itself. Michael Jordan undoubtedly wields incredible power within Nike, and if he said he was tired of seeing his namesake on the nightly news over video of brawls at malls across the country, the sneaker giant would certainly accommodate him. There are obvious solutions if profit greed would be put aside.
About the Author
What's up, everyone? My name is Zach and I am eighteen years old. Two things that have always stood out to me are music and fashion. I had one of my first pairs of Jordan's when I was only in first grade. Ever since then, I was interested in sports shoes and understanding the story or value behind each pair. Today I am a sneaker collector of high profile shoes and those that are easier to find. Music also plays a huge part in my life because I am always listening to it. It's very rare to not catch me without headphones in my ears. My favorite types of music are Hip-hop and R&B since I have grown up listening to them and it always motivates me in whatever I may be doing. I believe that a dream is just a goal with a deadline and we can achieve greatness if we work hard and strive to the best of our ablitity. Some of my favorite sports are basketball and swimming which is why I am a lifeguard. When I graduate college, I would like to go to law school to become a lawyer. Soon I will have to trade in my sneakers for suits and ties!
Gopaul, Z. (Spring 2014). "Sneaker violence around the nation: A prezi essay." Digital Spectrum: First Year Digital Essays, Stories, and Projects, 1, 2. Retrieved from https://johnjay.digication.com/digital_spectrum/Zachary_Gopaul/