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Adidas faces backlash for mostly white Black History Month sneaker


Sneaker and apparel brands love to create items in honor of specific causes and cultural events, but German shoemaker Adidas took it to an entirely new level when it recently released a sneaker for Black History Month: a mostly-white version of the “Ultra Boost Uncaged” sneaker.

That’s right ... a mostly-white sneaker to honor Black History Month named “Uncaged.” Let that sink in.

Adidas UltraBoost Uncaged  — Adidas
Adidas UltraBoost Uncaged — Adidas

The ruling from the court of public opinion was swift — and it didn’t take long for Adidas to get slammed on Twitter and in the media for the controversial, insensitively-named shoe.

“Homage to the Harlem Renaissance”

The company pulled the launch of the sneaker, but many were left wondering what on earth Adidas was thinking in the first place. In a statement provided to Yahoo Finance, the company said that it intended the collection, which is made up of several different sneakers and sports attire, to reflect the creativity and grandeur of the Harlem Renaissance of the early 1900s, including “footwear silhouettes which echo the colors of the jazz ballrooms so important to the era. Each detail is meant to be an homage to the art, poetry, sounds and sport of the Renaissance.”

Photographic print of Duke Ellington, Charles "Honi" Coles, and Billy Strayhorn —National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Photographic print of Duke Ellington, Charles "Honi" Coles, and Billy Strayhorn —National Museum of African American History & Culture.

It seems clear that the shoemaker didn’t intend to offend and regrets the design of the sneaker, but many fashion and footwear experts think the idea of creating products to commemorate cultural and historic events is inappropriate and misguided altogether.

Influencer and brand strategist Hayet Rida told Yahoo Finance:

“I personally am against brands releasing products in celebration of such heavy cultural moments. What it always looks like is a brand trying to benefit off struggle while trying to sell product. And then you run into situations like this one, that has me questioning the makeup of the development and innovation team. Where there no woke people on the team who could put up the hand and say this probably isn't a good idea? In all honesty, they could have had a bigger impact on lending their brand voice and marketing dollars to support initiatives that are doing the hard work already.”

Co-Founder of theCURVYcon and lifestyle influencer CeCE Olisa says if companies want to avoid such mistakes, they should have more diverse workforces. “Adidas Black History Month campaign tells me that there weren't people of color at the table making these decisions, or that the people of color who do have a seat at the adidas table don't feel empowered to speak up when tone deaf decisions are being made.”

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade

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