An internal uprising at Adidas this week spurred the company to take immediate steps to address racial disparity within its ranks. Now one Converse partner is putting his collaboration with the brand on hold until its parent company Nike addresses its own shortcomings.
Tremaine Emory, who founded the label Denim Tears, called out the athletic giant via his personal Instagram account. In the post, Emory was critical of Nike’s recent $40 million commitment over the next four years to “support the Black community in the U.S. on behalf of the Nike, Jordan and Converse brands,” calling it “a very expensive band-aid.” (Nike Inc. on June 5 announced it had partnered with Michael Jordan to add another $100 million to its initial commitment, bringing its total pledge to black communities to $140 million.)
Emory noted that Nike, “one of the largest companies in human history,” has made billions through marketing products endorsed by black athletes (and people-of-color in general) with said products made cool by black youth and black entertainers, the same groups who “suffer every day from white supremacy.”
In the post, Emory demanded more transparency of Nike’s inner workings and outlined what he wants the company, as well as all other brands in the marketplace, to do moving forward.
He stated he wants Nike “to stop all support of the Republican Party while Donald Trump is their candidate running this November,” he said. (In 2018, a wave of political contributions by Nike founder Phil Knight appeared to run counter to the firm’s public narrative.)
In the Instagram post, Emory also asked for more transparency about Nike’s workforce. “We need to see publicly how many black employees at Nike are working at HQ and at satellite offices versus how many black athletes they sponsor from a high school team to @kingjames,” he wrote, also wanting to know, “how many black people have leadership roles at Nike.”
It’s worth noting that Nike has released regular diversity and inclusion reports detailing the gender and racial diversity of its workforce, as well as gender pay equity.
Lastly, Emory suggested the athletic powerhouse use its influence to support the demands of a large portion of its consumers. “We need to see Nike aid in the defunding and total reform of all the police departments across America that brutalize all people that they make all of their money from — African Americans,” he wrote.
Emory concluded his statement by imploring others to repost “if you think Nike and all companies in America need to take these simple steps to finally change this country and freeing all people of color from the reign of institutionalized white supremacy.”
Converse responded to FN’s request for comment with the following statement: “We respect and encourage the efforts of any collaborator or athlete we work with to raise their voice against racial injustice,” the company said. “We have spoken with Tremaine and look forward to working through these issues together.”
Emory shared images of the collaboration and detailed what inspired the look. According to his social media post, the project, which is called “Veil on a Black Coffin,” was inspired by the late activist Marcus Garvey and renowned artist David Hammons. Emory said the box features an art piece he created using Hammons’ famed red, black and green “African-American Flag” with a cotton wreath “to give a proper burial to every single black person murdered since the first slave ship arrived in America till now.”