Nike Insults the Irish: Mom Talk

Is a company's oversight indicative of a larger ignorance?

Stupid is as stupid does. And this was definitely stupid.

It doesn't surprise me that people, including people who work for Nike, don't know about Ireland's history. However, it does surprise me that people, especially those who work for Nike, don't know how to use a search engine.

The international shoe giant eventually apologized for naming, albeit unofficially, a shoe after the Black and Tans, a ruthless bunch of thugs who brutally slaughtered the Irish civilians in the name of the Crown. The group was a paramilitary force sent by England in 1919 to squash any uprising of the Irish Republican Army.

Instead, the Black and Tans widely raped and pillaged any and all Irish men, women and children who crossed their paths.

The name came from their black tunics and tan army pants.

Since then, the Irish memorialized the Black and Tans with a drink. It is half British ale (usually Bass) and half Guinness. (For the record, if it's made with Guinness and Harp, it's called a half and half.)

Nike thought they were naming the shoes after a beverage. Nobody thought to ask where the name of the drink came from. That is just plain stupid. We're not talking about a small town church festival that made an error. Nike is big time. They should have caught it.

Some reports quote Ciaran Staunton, president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, as saying that naming the shoe the Black and Tan is the Irish equivelent of calling it the al-Qaida. That's about right. I'll add, it's like naming it the Pearl Harbor Bomber.

I can certainly understand an honest mistake. However, Nike is an international company. Learning sensitivities about other countries and other cultures is part of their daily ops. To me, this is like a NASA spacecraft that couldn't land because it did not convert metric to English. This is not rocket science. Well, in that case, apparently it would be.

Still, our society is getting stupider and stupider. This is another example. We cannot possibly memorize everything. We cannot truly learn by rote. We need to teach our children to go a layer deeper, to ask another question, to find out more.

No, no, Nike. You flunked the history test. Perhaps you'll do better in spelling. Perhaps, instead, you should teach your employees to memorize the word "Google."

Tim March 23, 2012 at 06:39 PM
'Patch' in Italian is an insult: 'a fool, or dolt'. No outrage. Before 'Nike' was a shoe company, it was the name of a missile designed to kill many more people than whatever the black and tans could have hoped for. Before that, it was the name of a greek god. No outrage Getting upset that the word that was OBVIOUSLY not meant to mean the connotations of negativity that people have placed on it in their own mind, is laughable. Your thoughts are your responsibility, but unfortunately, Nike has to bow to the masses of ignorance and issue an apology to people who came up with the negative connotation all on their own. Nike did not 'insult the irish' any more than working at a site called 'Patch' insults Italians.
BitterBluePoison March 23, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Gee...my dad used to have hogs called black & tan, also a dog that was black & tan...sometimes I may wear black pants with a tan shirt. Get real...with all that is happening in this world...all we need is another too sensitive idiot!
Jerry March 24, 2012 at 12:49 AM
People don't know anything about American history, let alone Irish history. Most still refer to the genocidal terrorism perpetuated on the Irish by the English as the Great Potato Famine. Truth be told, it was the systematic starvation of hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens well the world, including Americaturned a blind eye. I agree that this was insensitive on behalf of Nike, kind of like calling a new shoe The Nazi or The Klansman. Sometimes we just have to say, "they now not what they do" and let it go.
Christine Cacciatore March 24, 2012 at 01:45 PM
There is an Irish band, very popular, called Gaelic Storm, that my husband and I have gone to see a couple of times. One of their most popular songs is "Raised on Black and Tans." In the song, it refers to an ale. Perhaps that's all Nike meant, as their new shoes are also black and tan. I don't think it was intentional but it is unfortunate, considering the timing of their shoe's debut...right around St Patrick's Day. However, if my husband and I (in our pajamas) can research this with one click of the mouse, perhaps Nike could have as well.
Jerry March 24, 2012 at 02:24 PM
In Ireland the drink is ALWAYS known as a half and half, no matter what brands are used. The "black and tan" monicker was coined in the US and is offensive to the Irish (in Ireland). Pubs in Ireland are generally places where it's all about good times, music, and the "craich"...good natured joking and story telling. BUT one sure way to start a brawl with the friendliest people on Earth, is to stand at the bar and proclaim as loud as you can, "Give me a Black and Tan...I LOVE the Black and Tan!" And by the way, Christine, Gaelic Storm is AWESOME!
Christine Cacciatore March 24, 2012 at 02:38 PM
it's the right of it ye have, laddie.
Roy Rumaner March 24, 2012 at 03:09 PM
And there you have it "monicker was coined in the US and is offensive to the Irish (in Ireland)." We are not in Ireland Erin so get over yourself.
Jerry March 24, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Christine, give a listen to Seven Nations, The Elders, Dropkick Murphy's and The Rogues (they are Scottish but we're all Celts so we tolerate them). If you are a fan of Gaelic Storm, I think you will be impressed.
Baba O'Riley March 25, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I just looked up the shoes on Amazon. Nice looking shoes I might add. I see one of the models is a basketball shoe, maybe all the Irish NBA players or at least the Celtics should boycott Nike :)


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