So let me get this straight. The National Urban League, one of the most-respected civil rights organizations in the country, has asked sportswear giant Nike not to release a certain $315 sneaker.
Urban League President Marc Morial calls the shoes “outrageously overpriced” and that “it represents twisted priorities and confused values.”
As much as I respect the venerable organization, I think their suggestion is misdirected and almost out of the realm of reality.
At issue is Nike’s snazzy-looking high-tech sneaker called the LeBron X. I guess “I wanna be like Mike” is fading into “I want what’s on LeBron.”
The shoe has some fancy computer chip that can tell the wearer how high they can jump. I guess it’s real high after the wearing has become $315 lighter.
Morial said the cost is too much, especially “while the nation is struggling to overcome an unemployment crisis.”
Has Mr. Morial seen the cost of some vehicles lately? I wonder if he warns friends who sip the outrageously overpriced single malt whiskey that they are spending too much because someone they don’t know is out of work. What about the women who pay too much extra for shoes that have a red-painted sole.
I understand Morial’s concern. He envisions the release of the shoe and what may happen in its wake. There could be dozens of scenes played out across the country of young African Americans stampeding, robbing and shooting each other for the new shoe. The evidence is there. Has anyone ever totaled the carnage left behind after the releases of Michael Jordan’s shoes?
Morial envisions seeing young African Americans with the $315 computerized shoes stumbling around with no job and no hope to run toward. He sees the incredibly misplaced values and dangers the new shoe will present in his community.
Nike has no obligation to determine what it markets based on the wrongheaded notions of some of its potential customers. Should carmakers stop producing certain models because statistics show more people are prone to drink and drive in those cars?
Would Morial be less concerned if the sneakers cost $190?
Now, his effort to urge parents not to spend so much on the shoes is something I can support. I think would be great if it sparked a debate about the mindless value system in some communities where the style and cost of footwear is what some use to determine their self-worth.
If Morial and the Urban League use their bully pulpit to encourage parents to, as Morial says, spend the money “on computers, books and school supplies,” I’m on board. But, there is that little voice in my head that says, Who am I to tell someone what to buy with their money? And, should I say only middle class and rich people have the right to buy these shoes?
My position is: If you are willing to injure someone, steal, rob, deny your child good books, or you or your child feel you are better for having these shoes, then neither the LeBron X nor anything like it is for you.
Ed Pratt is a former Advocate editor. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is email@example.com.
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