The Paper on Nike (Part Three)
McDonaldization, the Maloof Money Cup and Hypocrisy. Quite a trifecta. This is the end of the paper. All sources to soon follow – FSS
Skate companies make skate shoes, big corporations make shoes that just happen to work as a skateboarding shoe. The truth is, many skateboarders were wearing Nike Jordan’s, the Adidas shell toe shoes and Converse All Stars before these companies established skate programs. “All though not intended for skateboarding, the Nike Air Jordan 1 quickly rose to great prominence among skaters during the mid-eighties, heavily influencing future skate sneaker designs…Quick to follow up on the success of the Air Jordan 1, Nike was already designing Jordan’s second pro model, its released scheduled for the upcoming 1986 NBA Season. In order to clear the stocks, the first pro model went on sale reducing its price by 50%, making it a bargain one could hardly resist. The high-top sneaker provided a snug fit, a paddled ankle support, a cushioned sole, and a reinforced Ollie pad, making it not only comfortable but also the most superior ‘skate shoe’ of its time” (HighSnobiety). Jordan’s, along with the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star and Nike Blazer provided what skateboarders needed at the time; ankle support, flexibility and durability. Due to their popularity in days of yesteryear, Nike SB has reissued shoes that skaters wore at the time. We now have Nike SB versions of the Bruin, Blazer, and the Nike Court Classic model. Even Converse is making skate-able versions of their Chuck Taylor and Julius Erving shoes. Adidas has revamped and re-released its Americana and Campus models. Many of the big, corporate companies are realizing how big their shoes were in skateboarding many years ago and are now redoing and reintroducing old models and selling them to a new generation for over seventy dollars apiece
Nike is sold in many skateboard shops across the country, as well as around the world. Skate shops have entire walls dedicated to Nike and Nike has even collaborated with some shops such as Skatepark of Tampa, Uprise Skateshop and New Jersey Skateshop and created special color ways of the Dunk specifically for the shops. Nike and the Skatepark of Tampa recently released a version of the Dunk Low that was in celebration of the Skatepark’s twentieth year of operation. All of this would be fine, had Nike not had some of the shadiest business practice ever encountered. Marc Johnson gave the interview of the year over at Jenkem Magazine. He exposed how corporations do business, and why their practices are evil. “Big Company has a policy where if a skateshop wants to carry that ONE shoe that everyone wants, the skateshop is forced to carry ALL of their shoes. FORCED to carry all of their shoes. When those shoes don’t sell, the skateshop goes into debt and that debt gets bigger and bigger until the skateshop goes out of business. Your local shop owes Big Company a lot of money and must continue to sell the popular shoe just to pay their bills, and then they go even deeper into debt because the other Big Company shoes don’t sell at all. No one wants them. But skateshop is forced to carry those shoes too in order to be able to sell the one popular shoe. And now, skateshop doesn’t even have a choice about what they order. Shoes just randomly show up at the shop, and now skateshop owes Big Company money for product they didn’t even order” (Jenkem Interview). What Nike does is that when a shop wants to carry one of the best shelling shoes at the moment, the Janoski model, they also have to agree to sell other models that may not sell. When the shoes do not sell at full price, the shoes are forced to be discounted to the point where only Nike makes money on the shoes. This causes the skate shop to go into deeper debt, and if it cannot be overcome, the skate shop is forced to close down. When skate companies like Lakai do business, they allow the shops to pick and choose which models they want to carry and everyone benefits from it.
The progress of Nike in skateboarding can be best described as a McDonaldization. McDonaldization is term coined by sociologist George Ritzer. “The process of McDonaldization takes a task and breaks it down into smaller tasks. This is repeated until all tasks have been broken down to the smallest possible level. The resulting tasks are then rationalized to find the single most efficient method for completing each task. All other methods are then deemed inefficient and discarded” (McDonaldization Website). The term “McDonaldization” was introduced to me in a Jenkem article titled, Why corporations are changing Skateboarding and Why It Matters. The process of McDonaldization is breaking down tasks to their basics and discarding the tasks that are inefficient and therefore are creating a business that runs smoothly, without much waste. This is entirely the opposite of skateboarding. Skateboarding is a wild beast. Trends start and die almost daily. “Instead of inefficiently, creatively, and collaboratively creating skate videos, skaters will efficiently and competitively enter into the highly predictable, standardized, quantifiable, and controllable world of mega-contests. In this social-world, there is no time for a skater to push himself spending hours trying to land a trick, because it is inefficient. There is little room for creativity (i.e. no backside 50-50 finger-flip) because, “it isn’t good strategy.” And there is no reason to seek out new skate spots as it more efficient for all skate contests to take place in the same stylized spaces. Whether you are in Gilbert or Toronto you can watch Chaz Ortiz jump down the exact same 10 stair. If corporate skating begins to dominate there will be little room left for the skating that Louie Barletta, Chris “Mango” Milic, or Jeff Stevens do, there will only be room for the (amazing, but) standardized and predictable skating of Greg Lutzka, Ryan Sheckler, and Nyjah Houston”(Jenkem Mag). What Jenkem means is that if skateboarding does go the way of McDonaldization, then style and originality will die. If skateboarding becomes this well-oiled machine, nothing new will be tried and skateboarding will move from the unpredictable streets to the safe, climate controlled stadiums and indoor parks where everything can be regulated. Robotic styles will be more acceptable than innovations and just “going for it”. It creates an unwanted desire for skateboarders to “win”. No one truly wins at skateboarding. Sure, some skateboarders are taking first place in contests and winning huge cash prizes, but money and places are meaningless in terms of legitimacy.
The Maloof Money Cup is a skateboarding competition whose first place purse is worth a half of a million dollars. The Maloof family is extremely wealthy and is one of the largest shareholders in Wells Fargo Bank. “And we are all amazed that the Maloofs are willing to put up a $500,000 cash prize, when in reality $500,000 is nothing when we consider the facts that the Maloof family is worth approximately 1 billion! 500k is 1/2000 of their net worth. This is the same as if the average American family (net worth 77k) was to “give away” $15 ( I put give away in quotes since the Maloofs profit off the Money Cup and do not lose money)” (Jenkem Mag). When the Maloof’s hold a contest for skateboarding, they build an entire skatepark specifically for the contest using influences from the most famous skate spots in the world. In 2010, the Maloof Money Cup was held in Queens, New York. Upon the conclusion of the event, the Maloof’s donated the entire skatepark to the city of Queens.
Nike’s ego in skateboarding has grown to unheard of levels. Earlier in 2013, Nike kicked off well-respected skateboarder Peter Hewitt for admitting in an interview with Chris Nieratko of Vice Magazine that he had in fact purchased marijuana using money given to him by Nike. “Recently a manufacturer of basketball, wrestling, and golf shoes decided to open its fucking mouth and tell their skateboarding division that one of their riders was acting too much like a skateboarder and not enough like a role model a la Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, or Lance Armstrong. In an interview with me the rider talked about buying (medicinal) marijuana and also shared some great poop stories from when he was a teenager some 25-plus years ago. Well, someone high up in the corporation took offense to this and had the skater fired immediately. His main source of income snatched away” (Nieratko). This is insane to learn, that Nike kicked off Hewitt due to him buying and smoking marijuana. In the mid-nineties, Hewitt was even sponsored by a company that made bongs. Marijuana and skateboarding are old friends, if Nike miraculously did not know this, then they are incredibly oblivious. This appears hypocritical on Nike’s behalf. Every so often, Nike releases special named colorways that often revolve around a theme. As mentioned earlier in this paper, Nike has released colorways for Skatepark of Tampa’s twentieth year of operation; a Fourth of July inspired set of shoes and even did a color way for team rider Paul Rodriguez’s own skate shop, Primitive. Along with these, Nike has also released shoes that were inspired by marijuana and marijuana culture. Nike released a shoe in 2011 that was inspired by the stoner comedians Cheech and Chong. On April 20, 2011, Nike also released a quick strike shoe called the skunk. This shoe is a high top version of the Nike dunk with green suede and a purple swoosh. The shoe is called the “skunk” because skunk is a slang term for a type of marijuana, and the fact that the smoke from marijuana smells like a skunks spray. Many of their current team riders smoke marijuana as well. For Nike to kick Hewitt off for buying marijuana with some money he earned by riding for them, but keeping Kobe Bryant on the team after he was accused of rape in Colorado or Tiger Woods after he confessed to be a sex addict and constantly cheated on his wife is incredibly hypocritical. Chris Nieratko says, “The culture of skateboarding is what we are about. And that culture must be preserved. So when we as a skateboarding community allow these visiting corporations to dictate our code of conduct, things have gone too far. It might be an idealist way to look at things, but I don’t think the guy with the most money should get to decide what we are and aren’t allowed to say and do.” Nike may have all this money and corporate backing, but they are still infants in the skate world. Nike cannot dictate what is said or done by skateboarders. Skateboarding cannot be tamed or confined. We are not the posh and proper “athletes” like that ones who wear their basketball shoes or hockey skates.
In conclusion, Nike is a humongous corporation who is simply doing business in skateboarding to make money. Nike tried on numerous occasions throughout the nineties to enter the skateboarding market, but its attempts were futile. Nike finally broke through the barrier when it acquired Savier Footwear and put all of the technology from its other footwear models into skate shoes. Seeing their popularity rise, Nike used the original Savier team to create Nike SB. Nike began re-releasing shoes that skateboarders wore in the 1980’s and 1990’s, such as the Blazer, the Dunk and the Bruin. As the acceptance of Nike grew due to its signings of top skateboarders such as Paul Rodriguez, Justin Brock and Lance Mountain; more and more shops started carrying Nike. With their big, corporate backing and deep pockets Nike has been able to seen as the only company shops need to support themselves. However, as learned in the Marc Johnson interview, this can also lead to crippling debt and cause skateboarding shops to close down. After many years of playing by our rules, Nike has decided to get all uppity and decided to start dictating what, when, where, why and how instead of following skaters advice and opinions. Nike is so determined to be the definition of skateboarding, like it is with running shoes and basketball sneakers, that it is blinded from the fact that skateboarding was perfectly fine and thriving without it. Nike does not put skateboarding first, unlike Lakai, Emerica and Vans. Vans maybe owned by VF Corp, but skateboarding is still driving force behind the brand. Nike is bad for skateboarding. Nike is bad for skateboarding, and I hope I have presented enough facts to back up that statement. Support those who support you.