We share National Urban League President Marc Morial’s concern about Nike’s upcoming launch of a new designer basketball shoe that will reportedly sell for $315 a pair, although we support a free market in which all sorts of products and ideas — both good ones and bad ones — can face a verdict from consumers.
Morial, the former mayor of New Orleans, has called on Nike to abandon its plans to release the LeBron X Nike Plus this fall. The shoe, named after NBA basketball star Le Bron James, promises to have especially wide appeal among inner-city youths, where tennis shoes have long held sway as a big way to make a fashion statement.
Putting a twist on Nike’s advertising slogan, Morial urged parents and the company, “Just don’t do it” regarding the release and sale of the shoe.
Morial suggested that peer pressure could tempt many youngsters who can ill afford them to buy the shoes.
“Parents struggle to give their children every advantage, and while expensive shoes might draw admiration, achievement is the advantage that truly matters,” Morial said. “Those dollars would be better spent on computers, books and school supplies.”
Morial predicted that the sneakers could cause other problems.
“The economic crisis has escalated violence and crime in many urban communities,” he said. “Tragically, overpriced sneakers have become a false symbol of status, often sparking violence.”
Morial has every right to criticize the offerings of American commerce — and to suggest that people who agree with his views not buy a particular product. But he’s also wise to mention the demand side of this question. We need to give some serious thought to a value system in which so many young people, including large numbers of the urban poor, might be willing to spend so much on designer tennis shoes.
That condition speaks not only of material poverty, but spiritual poverty, too. And addressing those spiritual ills must be an important part of any serious program of urban renewal.
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