With the beginning of Black History Month on Feb. 1, Nike has launched a special collection of sneakers it thinks will pay reverence to the history of the country’s Black population. But not everyone is impressed with the colorful sportswear.
Nike says that the 28-product line in a “vivid Pan African-inspired color palette” is inspired by Black legendary athletes including Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Sanya Richards-Ross.
Proceeds from the funky geometric printed items, spanning tennis, basketball, football, running, Nike iD and Jordan Brand, will go towards providing financial support to Nike’s Ever Higher Fund, which was created to bring mentorship, sport and all of its benefits to African-American youth.
"Nike is proud to support numerous national and local organizations that provide services to underrepresented youth, including African-American youth, during the year, through community development, coaching, city league sport programs, and early childhood development programs," says Nike, which has launched an annual Black History Month collection since 2005, in a release.
But while the collection has been met by rave reviews by the streetwear world—and Huffington Post called it “bold, vibrant and fierce”—Nike’s nod to the yearly event has been met with some critique.
Some critics have taken to Twitter to accuse Nike of “capitalizing” on Black History Month, with some expressing frustration that the month is now more associated with sneakers than its purported cause.
I really do hate that a search of the #BlackHistoryMonth hashtag results in a bunch of Nike sneakers..let's do better..— Ben Berry (@B3nBerry) January 13, 2016
One user even called the brand “racist” for “taking advantage of #MLK ideals.”
This is not the first time that Nike has raised eyebrows with its Black History Month collection. In 2012, commentators derided its description of its sneakers:
“The predominantly black upper of this Black History Month Air Force 1 is a nod to the past, because in the early days of the sport of basketball, shoes on the court were almost always black. The hints of gold all around the shoe are reminders of the golden moment we all are striving to achieve.”
“And here I thought the gold was a subtle reference to the mercenary nature of the slave trade. For 2012, perhaps a lovely chain motif for the laces?” PS Mag remarked, ranking the collection among the “many comically absurd by-products of Black History Month.”
Last year, Black Twitter reacted to the commemorative efforts, calling them “exploitative” by cashing in on “Black cool” to make billions.
Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian, began the “US: Black History Week” in 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12 and Frederick Douglass on Feb. 14.
In the days of the civil rights movement, the Black United Students at Kent State University expanded Black History Week to Black History Month in 1969.
Then President Gerald Ford urged U.S. citizens in 1976, as part of the biennial celebration of the country's founding, to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."