Sports apparel giant Nike has faced public backlash over its new Air Force 1 sneakers after cultural objections from an indigenous group in Panama.
The shoe was set to be released in June as a colourful celebration of Puerto Rico.
However, Nike has been accused of “pirating” the style after an indigenous group in Panama objected the design.
Nike said in a statement: “We apologise for the inaccurate representation of the design origin for the Nike Air Force 1 ‘Puerto Rico’ 2019. As a result, this product will no longer be available.”
Belisario Lopez, the traditional leader of the Gun Yala community in Panama said: “We are not against our ‘mola’ being commercialised. What we oppose is it being done without consulting us first.”
@Nike Guys, these are cool sneakers, and I get the reference to the Coquí frog, but this pattern and design are NOT from Puerto Rico!
It's a design called MOLA, made by the Guna people in Panama and parts of Colombia.
It is a HUGE failure of your research departament. pic.twitter.com/NsgUrRiYAM
— Isaac Larrier (@IsaacLarrier) May 16, 2019
He added the design represents “mother earth” because the design is “based on everything that is nature”, also noting the design “is a dress (style) exclusively for women.”
According to the indigenous group’s lawyer Aresio Valiente, they didn’t just want the shoe removed, they also want compensation.
Valiente told a news conference in Panama: “There is already damage to our image, to our design, to our mola. We are not going to wait for it to be thrown away, we have to seek compensation.”
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