jordan brand finally speaks out about sneaker violence

The brand has historically been criticized for failing to speak up about the darker side of sneaker culture.

by Hannah Ongley
01 August 2016, 7:55pm


In the 2015 documentary Sneakerheadz, it was revealed that an estimated 1,200 Americans die each year from sneaker violence. While not all the deaths were over Jordans, the brand's sneakers are some of the most covetable on the market, and it has historically copped flak for failing to address the darker side of sneaker culture. In 2012, a young man was shot dead in Houston shortly after purchasing three fresh pairs of limited edition Air Jordan kicks. A year after his death, his mother started an organization called Life Over Fashion to warn parents about the dangers of sending their kids to Jordan release events. NBA star Stephon Marbury has also specifically called out the brand for not taking responsibility for sneaker deaths, as have countless Jordan superfans. 

In a recent interview with Esquire, nearly three decades since Sports Illustrated ran the 1990 cover story that first fueled the sneaker violence debate, Jordan Brand's senior vice president Howard "H" White finally offered a statement on the issue. "It saddens me…'It's a shoe that I want so I'm going to take it.' Unfortunately those things happen, which are systemically bad," he said. H then pointed out the positive aspects of sneaker culture, including that it inspires kids to "do great things." "The person that says, 'Wow, man, I remember the first job I got because I had to have them and save money.' 'My Mom got me those Cement IVs if I got good grades,'" he told the magazine. 

"You hate to see that [sort of violence] over anything, actually. You would reduce yourself to this?" H continued. "But then all of those people that stand in line, that brave the cold, that say, 'This means something to me.' Getting that pair of shoes makes them feel better about themselves. If it gives them the ability to dream and hope, that's hard to take from a kid. So you can always say, 'Hey, because of this we aren't going to do this anymore.' But are we helping kids?"

In recent years, Jordan and other brands have made a few attempts to lessen instances of violence at release events, including launching or re-releasing sneaker styles early in the morning instead of at midnight. Hopefully the brand's comments are a sign that it's finally thinking seriously about safety. While H is correct in saying that you can't put a price on kids' dreams and hopes, nor can put you price on their lives. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Instagram

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