Nike Pulls Its ‘Puerto Rico’ Air Force 1 Low Sneaker Amid Controversy Using a Panama Design

Nike is withdrawing a shoe intended to celebrate New York City’s annual Puerto Rican Day parade after an indigenous group in Panama opposed the use of a traditional design on the sneaker.

The special-edition “Puerto Rico” colorway of the Nike Air Force 1 was accused of incorporating the sacred “Mola” print that originated from the Guna people, which is prominently seen on the heel and quarter panels of the popular shoe. The remainder of the shoe features white tumbled leather with sail Swoosh branding on the side and “Nike/PR” branding on the tongue tag and heel tab. The look is completed with a white midsole and icy translucent outsole.

The canceled sneaker was slated to be released in June on Nike’s website.

The 'Puerto Rico' Nike Air Force 1 Low
The “Puerto Rico” Nike Air Force 1 Low.
The 'Puerto Rico' Nike Air Force 1 Low
The heel of the “Puerto Rico” Nike Air Force 1 Low.

In the midst of the controversy, Belisario López, the traditional leader of the Guna Yala community, said in a Panama City press conference: “We are not against our ‘mola’ being commercialized. What we oppose is it being done without consulting us first.”

The Guna people have since asked Nike to not use the design that resulted in this following statement from the brand: “We apologize for the inaccurate representation of the design origin for the Nike Air Force 1 ‘Puerto Rico’ 2019. As a result, this product will no longer be available.”

Last week, famed musician and sneaker collector DJ Clark Kent — who is of Panamanian descent — posted an image on Instagram of the print and explained its meaning.

“This is called a ‘Mola’ • It is a Panamanian art form. You can find it anywhere in my home country, PANAMA • Respectfully, This is not a part of Puerto Rico’s rich culture. • Though we are both Spanish speaking people, we have different traditions, art & cultural expressions. When celebrating one, please do proper research. These things should not be confused,” he wrote on the social media platform.

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