Pivot Points: Can You Blame Nike For Tiger, Jordan, Bryant, And James?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IDecember 10, 2009

UNITED STATES - MAY 02:  Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods during the Pro-Am prior to the 2007 Wachovia Championship held at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 2, 2007.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Just Do It. That slogan has become emblazoned into the very fabric of our conscience since Nike realized the appeal that a young basketball player that seemed to defy gravity, had on the masses, and began marketing Michael Jordan to the world.

Jordan's superior skill, and likable persona created a cash bonanza for Nike and set off a fire-storm in neighborhoods across America of people eager to be associated with the Air-Jordan brand.

I can remember my first pair of Air Jordan's, back when they only came in two color variations, red, black and white, or red and black. I can remember how desperate I was to own a pair of shoes created by the best basketball player on the planet.

My mother obliged my desire although the shoes had nowhere near the 150 dollar plus price tag that is common today.

Nonetheless it was difficult on a teacher's salary, especially with a father who was sometimes shiftless and lazy, and for whom a steady job was a rare occurrence.

She recognized my furious passion to own the shoes and she was determined to not disappoint me if at all possible. My mother wasn't dumb, and as the prices rose, she saw the scheme for what it was.

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She refused to continue wasting money, but by then I was already hooked, the shoes had become more of a status symbol than a basketball shoe and they were the must have item, especially for kids in the inner-cities.

The lengths that people would go to own a pair of Air Jordan's was endless, and for awhile I was a part of that same clan.

I became dis-enchanted around the time that you had to rise at 4:00 a.m. in the morning to stand in line and purchase them, and around the same time people started being murdered and robbed because they chose to wear them.

That a material item could be the reason for people to resort to their most primitive nature was beyond my realm of comprehension, and I could no longer justify wearing the shoes.

I only recounted that story to paint a picture of the type of impact that Nike and their mass-marketing techniques had in the poorer neighborhoods across America.

In some places it placed the insatiable need for a leather pair of shoes in front of more necessary items that are needed just to sustain basic well-being, like bills, and sometimes even food.

I can't blame Nike for forcing people to forgo logic and purchase shoes that they can't afford, but I can blame them for helping foster an environment in which that is possible.

Jordan, along with Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James all represent the face of Nike and are some of their most recognizable emissaries.

All have been faced with trials that have tested their resolve, and caused the public eye to be shifted to them sometimes in disdain.

Nike is not responsible for the infidelity of Jordan, Woods and Bryant but they are responsible for projecting an image of those people and asking us to accept it as reality.

Likewise, they are not responsible for making James show good sportsmanship and shake the hands of his friends in defeat, nor did they induce him to make the ridiculous statement about retiring Jordan's number, and comparing it to baseball retiring Jackie Robinson's number.

Nike did nurture the egotism that allowed James to ignore the historical implications of Robinson's number being retired, and the narcissism to think we should really stand behind him.

Nike's money and influence did seem to give all these athletes a highly inflated value of self-worth that may have attributed to some of their egregious actions.

Nothing that Nike did was illegal by the letter of the law, but their intense pursuit of capitalism by all means leaves them morally-bankrupt.

To be sure, the personal lives of all the people mentioned are just that, their own personal business. So in essence they too are victims of Nike, because Nike's elevation of them fails to mention that they are just humans after all.

Humans, capable of making mistakes just like everyone else, and hopefully learning from those mistakes to help improve their lives in the future.

And you better believe that Nike will be right there with the pen and contract ready to welcome them back into the public arena. 

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