Monday, March 24, 2008

Nike Supports Slavery Reparations in New Commercial

As I watched roughly 15 hours of college basketball over the weekend (the NCAA Tournament is my favorite sporting event) there was a commercial in heavy rotation that caught my attention. It's called "My Better is Better" and the product being sold is something called Nike SPARQ, which is apparently a training regimen that includes footwear, performance apparel and online content. The commercial itself is not that remarkable (a montage of elite athletes training intensely) except for the song Nike uses as the soundtrack. A catchy little number that emulates the intensity that Nike is obviously trying to project. The only problem is the song couldn't be more antithetical to commercial product marketing.

See, the song is called "List of Demands (Reparations)" and it isn't about sports, or competition or even vague references to 'intensity', but rather (you guessed it) is a demand for long overdue reparations for the descendants of West African slaves. What's even more puzzling is that the artist who wrote and recorded "List of Demands" is Saul Williams, who is basically as politically liberal and anti-establishment as they come.

Now, I guess Nike was probably going for an 'edgy' vibe aimed at complimenting the rapid fire of images depicting athletes in various stages of grueling workouts, but had they paid attention to the lyrics of the song they would know how incompatible it (and basically anything by Saul Williams) is with selling shoes. Yet, maybe I am being too cynical here? Corporate monoliths like Nike don't make marketing decisions without exhaustive testing, strategic planning and focus groups. It's why they spend countless millions on advertising. So, it is with that in mind I will choose to interpret the use of this song as a tacit declaration that Nike supports reparations for slavery. Hopefully this blog can serve as the launching pad to spread this message across the globe and shine a much needed light on the subject.

I'm sure a company like Nike, who has a well-documented history of employing slave labor, sees no irony in using a song demanding reparations to sell more of their slavery-produced shoes and apparel. Or maybe they've seen the error of their ways and the "Better Than Your Better" commercial is a subtle apology for their shady labor practices. And if it isn't, then I hope Saul Williams writes a song about it.

Saul Williams - "List of Demands (Reparations)"

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