Nike Apologizes for Controversial ‘Black and Tan’ Sneakers

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Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Nike released its SB “Black and Tan” sneakers, a nod to the popular beverage made from mixing stout and pale ale. What the company didn’t realize: the name is also deeply offensive to Irish people. It refers to a brutal British paramilitary unit sent to suppress Irish revolutionaries in the early 1920s. In Ireland, the “Black and Tans” are still widely associated with merciless mistreatment of civilians.

The name would be the equivalent of calling a sneaker the “Al Qaeda” in the U.S., Ciaran Staunton, president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, told Backlash ensued, and Nike offered a a swift apology for unintentionally upsetting the Irish people. It was a complete accident, of course, but it does make you wonder why nobody over at Nike’s headquarters knows how to use the ol’ Google machine.

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One advertisement for the $90 sneaker reads: “Tis the season for Irish beer and why not celebrate with Nike. The Black and Tan sneaker takes inspiration for the fine balancing act of a Stout (Guinness) on top a Pale Ale (Harp) in a pint glass.” Nike officials told Fox News that the sneakers had been “unofficially named by some” and were officially dubbed the Nike SB Dunk Low.

Nike’s marketing crew must have been unaware of a very similar product-naming gaffe that caught Irish ire a few years back. Ben & Jerry’s, often lauded for its social awareness, released a “Black and Tan” ice cream in 2006, also unfamiliar with the name’s implications. No apology-flavored follow-up ice cream was ever released, but there’s still time for a limited edition release of some top-notch We’re Sorry We Messed Up kicks.

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