I'll admit it. When MJ ruled the courts and the Bulls were a championship-winning dynasty, I too wanted to be like Mike. I had posters of the 1992 Dream Team on my bedroom wall, and practiced hook shots in the driveway (remnants of a previous Pete Marovich obsession: I was a weird little girl). What I didn't know then was that Jordan's biggest sponsor and creator of the Air Jordan empire, Nike, is viewed quite differently by the men and women that work in it's Vietnamese and other Asian manufacturing operations.
Although the athletic shoe, clothing, and equipment giant has built itself a very "progressive" image here in the U.S., they've been caught abusing workers and paying slave wages in their overseas factories many times. In fact, in September 2003, Nike Inc. had to pay "$1.5 million to settle charges that it lied about its reliance on sweatshop labor, leaving intact a California Supreme Court ruling that companies can be sued under state law for making allegedly false statements." Allegedly, the company claimed it would rather "spend the money to improve factory labor conditions in developing countries than on litigation with an uncertain outcome," but I'd bet that saving face had a lot to do with it too.
Nike's checkered past has made me skeptical of the companies latest claim: a new Air Jordan sneaker made with "the environment in mind."
As the 23rd edition of the Air Jordan, the AJXX3 has incredible marketing potential for the company, as 23 was the jersey number worn by Jordan throughout his legendary career. “Our goal was to make the Air Jordan XX3 the best basketball shoe ever, both in performance and sustainability," said Tinker Hatfield, Nike’s vice president of innovation design and special projects.
But I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to infuse their biggest marketing campaign in years with a delightful tinge of green now would it?
According to SustainableIndustries.net, the AJXX3 features a stripped down design that eliminates adhesives and environmentally questionable materials. Instead, the shoe uses water-based adhesives and a series of interlocking panels, which required the company to design new machines for manufacturing, Nike reports. An "efficient pattern design" minimizes waste, while the sole uses (sic) "enviromentally preferable rubber" and Nike's recycled "ReGrind" material, according to a Nike news release.
At face value, these changes sound great. But why save this technology for just the Air Jordan line? Why not jump out ahead of all competitors and make every Nike shoe this way? We all know they've got the machines.
And the nail in the sustainable coffin? To start, only 23 stores across the country will get limited edition versions of the Air 23, with special packaging.
The cost - $230.