Are the Words the Weapons?

One of the controversial Nike ads hung at the West 4th station

If you’ve been following the business section of the news lately, you may have heard about the firestorm Nike stirred up with its ad campaign for the release of the new (and supposedly revolutionary) basketball sneaker the Nike Hyperdunk (I want a pair — any givers for a broke Grad School Student?).

A brief summary for those who don’t feel like following the link: Nike’s ad campaign shows tightly cropped, staged pictures of one player dunking over/on another, with the dunker obviously sporting his Hyperdunks. The controversy lies in the fact that the player getting dunked on has the the dunker’s crotch in his face. Each picture has its own slogan, like “That Ain’t Right” for example.

Many people are claiming that the ads play on homophobia, a rampant problem in the world of sports.

Many others are claiming that the homophobia is not the intent of nor is it inherent in the ad, and that people are merely digging for something to dispute.

5 days ago, in response to the negative press and multitude of blog comment wars going on, Nike (story broken by Henry Abbot from TrueHoop, which was hosting a good deal of the ongoing debate) removed some of the deemed offensive ads from its campaign.

I’m not here to weigh in on the subject. My opinion is my opinion; think whatever you like about this whole thing. But, I have a question to pose to all of you.

Nike’s response to the negative criticism was to remove a couple of the posters with offensive tags on them (“That Ain’t Right,” “Punks Jump Up”): does that really solve the issue?


Look at the pictures I took last night. These are from the West 4th Street subway stop, where the posters have been hanging for at least two weeks now in my estimation. Now, they are a little different than the specific posters referenced in the controversy, as the slogan is spaced out across the line of posters along the long tunnel wall at the station rather than on each individual one. But, the images are the same. And they have remained so after Nike’s formal response to the issue.

Is the supposed homophobia that these ads play on contained solely in the offensive slogan of the poster? Does putting up a new slogan make the pictures instantly PC?

I personally think that if you found the posters problematic to begin with, a change of verbiage isn’t the solution. But, again, that’s me.

The forum’s open.

*UPDATE* I was in the West 4th Street station again today, and realized that I had failed to notice that the two posters and slogans that Nike had committed to removing, “Punks Jump Up” and “That Ain’t Right,” both still hang on the walls (both on the west 3rd street end of the station, one on the exit tunnel, the other just outside the turnstyles). I am not versed in how long a change in advertising takes when it comes to physical posters (compared to magazine or internet advertisements), but I suppose a few conclusions could be drawn about Nike’s commitment to rectifying the situation based on this reaction time. I’ll keep you updated the next time I am at the station. Feel free to check and post your own findings as well.

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One Response to “Are the Words the Weapons?”

  1. khandor Says:

    Players respect players who they think can play the game at a high level.

    Homophobia is no more a problem in sports than it is in an other area of life.

    Pro athletes who are afraid of coming out of the closet are no different than non pro athletes … except the latter category doesn’t have potential marketing income being left on the table as a result of their sexual orientation.

    Nike is a giant conglomerate that plays a different ‘game’ by its own set of rules … for which I have ZERO sympathy.

    Whether Nike keeps their ad campaign afloat, in whatever manner they choose to do so, is their decision, not mine.

    Those who object to Nike’s way of doing business (worldwide) should NOT buy their products.

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