Corporate Responsibility, Personal Responsibility, Nike, and Michael Jordan

We have all heard the stories of the near riots that occurred when Nike released a new version of Air Jordan sneakers several days before Christmas.  There were arrests, damage to stores, toddlers left in cars, and pepper spray all brought out while the frenzy to be one of the lucky ones who got a pair.  Sneakers that are now on sale on Ebay for almost double the original cost.

Activists in the Houston area have asked the Michael Jordan and Nike take responsibility for the violence that occurred when they went on sale and the violence that has occurred to those who have a pair.

“It is the responsibility of Michael Jordan and Nike to stand up and be part of the solution. Right now it’s a public safety issue with children wearing those sneakers,”

“The people that can least afford these shoes are buying them, and what happens as a result of that? Well there’s more crime,”

So, it is Nike and Michael Jordan who are responsible for the violence?

I have had pretty strong opinions on Micheal Jordan during his entire career.  As a lifelong long-suffering Knicks fan, Michael Jordan and his Bulls team was nothing but a source of disappointment for me.  But above and beyond the fact that the Knicks could never get past the Bulls and go onto to win a title one of the things that always did annoy about Michael Jordan was his insistence of saying nothing no matter what was going on.  When asked about endorsing a political candidate running against the sitting republican senator of his home state his response was:

“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Jordan made millions and possibly billions from endorsements.  His life has always seemed to be about the conquest and the next thing.  Some call that arrogant, I have always preferred to look at as the “eye of the tiger” if you will.  He always maintained an edge that made him better and more competitive.  His juices for the next title, the next trophy, the next accomplishment kept him at the top of his game for the majority of his basketball career.  He made very few errors until the very end of career  and once he went to the management side of things.  He has every right to go out and make money.  I believe in capitalism so have at it.  But I, for one, have always been disappointed that they he didn’t take some stands on important issues.  Such as child labor in China, the breakdown of the black family (while since it has come out that he had more than one affair while he was married, that could be part of the reason) as he had an image of a family man, who grew up in a close family, and many other issues.  But he always kept his mouth shut and picked up his next check.  The same was true of Tiger Woods.

I am not a believer in parents sitting back while their children idolize some sports or music star.  We should be showing our children the real heroes in our society, first responders who put their lives on the line to protect their communities, our volunteer military who willing go off to war to protect our rights, the people who work at shelters and food banks to help the neediest amongst us for little pay, and countless others who get up everyday and just try to do the right thing.  Parents should be living a life that their children will be proud to follow as they grow and mature.

But we have become a culture of entitlement.  One of the activists said himself that the people who can afford them the least are the ones buying them.  A Black Panther is saying that Nike is responsible for the thefts that are occurring to the people who lucky enough to get a pair of these sneakers.  Another said this:

“These shoes have always had a place of value in Black life,”

Maybe instead of going after Nike to lower the price to keep up with the demand (I will let go of that obvious ignorance of how economics work) they should be having the discussion with parents of the kids who were rioting.  They should be talking to the kids themselves about coveting a pair of sneakers instead of looking at what the Christmas season is really about.  Maybe we should be telling these kids that expecting your parents to spend almost $200 on a pair of sneakers when they don’t have a great deal of money isn’t such a great idea.  Take this moment to teach them about personal responsibility instead of what we want and when we want it.  Let this be a teachable moment about how if we really want something we need to go out and work for it.  No, instead they are saying that Nike should lower the price.  How low should the price be?  Should Nike also give some away at no charge for the neediest of people because after all these shoes are part of “black life”.  What about the non blacks who want these shoes too and can’t afford them?

While I would love to see Michael Jordan take a real stand for once, the truth is, this isn’t his responsibility.  This is the responsibility of the care givers of these children and young adults who caused all the mayhem last week.  It is up to the individual to act in a responsible manner, not some athlete who hasn’t been on the scene in more than decade.