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Latest Protests Lead to Store Closures, Sit-outs

Obi Anyanwu

Brands and retailers continue to show solidarity with the continuing protests over police brutality in the U.S.

Nike, New Balance, Kith, Unknwn, Aimé Leon Dore and more issued statements in support of those protesting the shooting of the latest victim, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisc.; converted their stores into voter registration locations, or delayed product launches.

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Adidas and Under Armour issued statements supporting NBA and WNBA players that refused to play their games following the police shooting of Blake. Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey was identified as the man who shot 29-year-old Blake seven times in the back on Sunday, which prompted a week of protests, and some violence, in the Midwestern city.

Nike also issued a statement supporting the athletes. At the same time, Black Nike employees sat out of the workday on Friday, putting up auto-reply messages saying they were out of office because of the number of Black people killed by police, and issuing calls to action. The sportswear giant issued a statement on Friday in support of its employees, saying: “We support our teammates who have chosen to take time off to stand in solidarity with athletes in response to the racialized violence and systemic racism experienced by the Black community.”

A number of retailers also said they will be closed this weekend in protest. The Whitaker Group founder James Whitner closed stores A Ma Maniere, Social Status, A.P.B. and Prosper until Monday and said, “If you are a leader in your community, please come stand with us as we close our doors from now until 8/31 in solidarity and focus on solutions TOGETHER!!!” He also tagged Kith, RSVP Gallery, Bodega, Unknwn, Oneness, Crème, Burn Rubber, Sneaker Politics, Foster, August and Corporate in the post, with almost all following suit. Whitner also added links to his Instagram page for followers to register to vote.

Unknwn, in addition to closing, delayed the launch of its collaboration T-shirt with Renowned LA. The retailer was planning to do a 72-hour pre-order for the T-shirt this weekend, with all proceeds being donated to the LeBron James Family Foundation. James is a cofounder of Unknwn.

Renowned LA founder John Dean, who like James is from Akron, Ohio, said in a statement, “Making it very clear, we demand justice and accountability from those who commit heinous acts against people who look like me. With that being said…we are moving the release for our Renowned x Unknwn ‘Hands to the Sky’ tee back until further notice….We are tired….We feel disrespected and we demand justice. This tee is releasing to address these exact issues we have been facing. It’s time to start having these uncomfortable conversations…cuz we not asking no more.”

Aimé Leon Dore delayed the launch of its fall 2020 collection and issued a statement saying, “In light of the wrongful shooting of Jacob Blake by police, and in solidarity with all those striking to protest racial injustice, we have decided to delay the release of our fall 2020 collection. The fall 2020 collection will now receive a public release at 11 a.m. EST on Sunday, August 30th in-store and online. Aimé Leon Dore will continue to stand with the Black community against police brutality and white supremacy.”

Other brands and retailers also turned their attention to voter registration. Following brands such as Bode that said earlier that its Lower East Side store is now a venue for voter registration, Kith issued a statement on Thursday saying that its stores in SoHo and Brooklyn in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami are closed and converted into registration hubs.

New Balance partnered with Time to Vote “providing all New Balance associates with flexible schedules on Nov. 3 to make their voices heard,” the company said on Instagram. The footwear company also donated $1.25 million in protective masks to voter registration organizations, including When We All Vote, National Voter Registration Day and Until We Do It. The company added, “We believe that when everyone participates equally, justice will follow.”

In May and June, several fashion companies stepped forward to support Black Lives Matter, reaffirm that product can be replaced and lives cannot, and that they are against police brutality in the country. The call to action this weekend is also in response to the national conventions for the 2020 presidential election this November, the Democratic convention last week and the Republican one wrapping up Thursday.