While Nike is no stranger to controversy, especially given the company’s willingness to make anthem protester Colin Kaepernick the face of a major ad campaign, a new controversy has landed the company in hot water of an entirely different variety.
Thousands have joined an online petition in recent weeks, to force the shoe and sports apparel giant to recall its Air Max 720 shoe, claiming that the logo on the bottom is offensive to Muslims.
According to the Change.org petition — which has garnered more than 10,000 signatures over the last two weeks — the logo looks like “Allah,” in Arabic writing. The placement of that logo, on the bottom of the shoe, means that the most meaningful word in Arabic will be stepped on. In addition, in the Islamic world, showing the bottom of your shoe to someone is considered a sign of disrespect.
Saqia Noreen, who began the online petition, says that the logo “will surely be trampled, kicked and become soiled with mud or even filth.”
“It is outrageous and appalling of Nike to allow the name of God on a shoe,” Noreen wrote. “This is disrespectful and extremely offensive to Muslim’s and insulting to Islam.”
For their part, Nike denies any desire to cause offense and claims the design is but a different version of the Air Max logo.
“Nike respects all religions and we take concerns of this nature seriously,” the spokesperson told Today. “The AIR MAX logo was designed to be a stylized representation of Nike’s AIR MAX trademark. It is intended to reflect the AIR MAX brand only. Any other perceived meaning or representation is unintentional.”
According to the Hill:
It is not the first time the company has faced accusations of offensive imagery, according to ‘Today.’ Nike stopped selling a line of shoes in 1997 over a flame-shaped logo that critics said looked like “Allah.”
The complaints against Nike come just weeks after Amazon removed over a dozen products, including bath mats and doormats that had references to the Prophet Muhammad.
There is no word yet on whether Nike intends to change its design for the shoe.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn