In the U.S., North Carolina’s HB2 law, also known as the “bathroom bill,” mandated that everyone use the public bathroom according to the gender they were assigned at birth, regardless of whether they were transgender or in transition. Adopted in February 2016, the law was introduced in the months leading up to the Nike-sponsored National Basketball Association (NBA) All Star Weekend basketball tournament, scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina.
While the law received criticism from companies like PayPal and Deutsche Bank, which pulled out planned investments in the state, the most visible backlash came from Nike and NBA fans urging the basketball association to move the All-Star Weekend to another city. The NBA waited to see if North Carolina would respond by softening the bill. When that didn’t happen, the 2017 All-Star Game went to New Orleans.
As the premier athletic footwear brand in the world, Nike releases dozens of thematic sneakers a year, and the All-Star Weekend is a much-awaited moment from basketball fans and sneaker aficionados alike. Having already designed, created, and stocked shoes with Charlotte in mind, Nike faced a dilemma: to release the shoes improperly themed for Charlotte, or cancel the release altogether. But then, Nike realized that these shoes were the perfect metaphor for the experience of many LGBTQ people around the country: they reflected their need to move to a different state to avoid legal discrimination. The brand named the shoes “Gotta Shine” and added as a tagline: “Whether it’s for yourself, your game or your community.”
While Nike became the first footwear company to formally celebrate gay pride with its Pride Pack of sneakers in June 2012 and has continued to do so ever since, taking a stance against the “bathroom bill” sent a message to the world that Nike’s support of LGBTQ rights went beyond cause marketing....
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