CAIRO – An American Muslim Nike fan has been shocked after finding out that his favorite athletics brand does not allow “Islam” or “Muslim ID on a custom pair of Air Jordans he requested, discovering that the words are banned.
I was trying to buy a pair of Air Jordans and was checking out the customization features, one of which includes the ability to put short text (up to 6 letters) on them,” Nabeel Kaukab said in a port tagging Nike on Facebook.
“As I was experimenting with different words to customize my shoes, I noticed that for Nike, neither ‘Islam’ nor ‘Muslim’ ‘fit within our guidelines.'”
Kaukab referred to Nike’s guidelines which specifically exclude “profanity,” “inappropriate slang,” “insulting or discriminatory content,” “content construed to incite violence,” “material that Nike wishes not to place on products” and anything that “violates another party’s trademark or intellectual property rights.”
“As far as I (or any rational person) can assume, neither word is profanity, slang (appropriate or inappropriate), insulting or discriminatory (more than a billion people globally find identity in being called Muslims),” Kaukab, who works in healthcare technology, said.
“Considering there is no trademark or [intellectual property] around just the word Islam or Muslim, by process of elimination that leaves your customers to assume only the following:
“Either you believe the word Islam or Muslim incites violence or they are words that Nike doesn’t want to place on its products?” he added.
Kaukab, who described himself in an email to HuffPost as “an All American kid with an unusual name,” thinks this is “a very different scenario from what happened in 1997.”
“Not allowing a certain class of people to express positive terms for their identity doesn’t make sense and only makes Nike seem exclusive, not inclusive,” he said.
The Muslim man added that he’s not a religious activist.
“I’m a believer in engagement,” he told HuffPost.
“I don’t think this is an issue about Nike ‘hating Muslims’ or being discriminatory in its practices (at least I assume so). I think this is an issue of how many corporations (and frankly organizations in general) just don’t get Muslims, both in the United States and abroad.”
One day after the first post was circulated in social media websites, Nike responded to Kaukab, promising to move the two words from banned list.
Kaukab said he was contacted by Kate M, a spokesperson from Nike, and agreed on, “immediately taking Muslim and Islam off the banned words list for user customization.”
They also agreed on, “setting up additional discussions and strategy sessions around properly engaging Muslim consumers and rethinking the process around how words are designated as acceptable or unacceptable on NikeiD.”
Moreover, they promised to make “a particular point of spending time around the “Muhammad” issue, as it is both the name of the Prophet and the most popular name for boys on Earth (i.e. a blanket ban is not ideal, while universal acceptance may not be culturally sensitive).”
Kaukab said that the problem he faced resulted from a decision issued in 1997 by Nike after a line of basketball shoes appeared with a stylized set of flames that read “Air” in English also (unintentionally) resembled the word “Allah” in Arabic.
The fiasco resolved itself only after Nike withdrew 38,000 pairs of shoes worldwide, issued a formal apology and paid for a playground at an Islamic elementary school in the U.S.
“She accepted responsibility that, while its intentions were good, Nike did not do an effective job of this because the company did not sufficiently vet this effort with the Muslim community, hence the inconsistent application and seemingly contradictory stances (e.g. Koran is forbidden, but Qur’an is acceptable or Muhammad is fine but Muslim is not),” Kaukab said, referring to Kate.