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After a few scuffles and an unfortunate history of sneaker-related violence, it’s soapbox season at the New York Daily News as they encourage Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand to switch to an online-only release strategy for its annual Air Jordan 11 Retro holiday sneaker. 

Since there are no greater calls to action in modern media than warning readers of impending senseless violence, their fear-inducing strategy is designed to incite readers with a narrative that traps our inherent desires for safety.

The NYDN asked if Michael Jordan could curb the violence captured on shaky videos at a handful of stores for a nationwide general-release sneaker. It’s the same angle the NYDN took with Jay-Z when they challenged his morals for a business relationship with Barney’s following allegations of racially-motivated harassment toward black customers. 

[Michael] Jordan undoubtedly wields incredible power within Nike, and if he said he was tired of seeing his namesake on the nightly news over video of brawls at malls across the country, the sneaker giant would certainly accommodate him.

So how’s this for a novel idea: Only sell retro Jordans online.

But switching to an online-only release strategy is not a novel idea. There are multiple must-have releases each month and scoring a release online is easier than it’s ever been, yet Sneaker Twitter has its dreams shattered every weekend.

At the start of NYDN‘s column, the writer tastelessly invoked the memory of Michael Eugene Thomas, a Maryland teenager murdered in 1989 for the sneakers he was already wearing. Using Thomas’ life as a cautionary tale completely contradicts the “novel idea,” as the young man was needlessly killed long before there were crowds outside malls, raffles for general releases, automated add-to-cart actions, Twitter RSVP “sniping,” or celebrity sneaker stalking to elevate the energy connected to each release.

It’s not about how the sneaker reaches the marketplace, but how customers are encouraged to care about the product. Gathering for the sneakers isn’t the source of the violence, regardless of how social media makes a handful of incidents trend nationwide.

Going digital only enhances the illusion of exclusivity that’s palpable as customers queue outside sneaker stores now. High-demand releases offered online routinely sell out minutes after Nike tweets the link; big-box sneaker retailers can barely handle the web traffic. Doors might not rip off the hinges and brawls won’t spill into the e-streets, but those online-only sneakers that weren’t available anywhere will only be viewed as more limited and create even more urgency among the have-nots.

The narrative will ultimately shift from unfortunate outbreaks of random violence in malls to tragic and more calculated violence with sneaker robberies. The infamous, “What size are those?” question from the 80s would be retro’d next.

Photo: Angel Navedo