To some, the term "Black and Tan" simply refers to a drink, the result of mixing a pale beer and a dark one. To others, it has a more negative connotation; it's also the name of a British paramilitary force that was responsible for the suppression of an Irish revolution in the 1920's.
Apparently, Nike is among the former group.
The sportswear giant has released two new sneaker styles in celebration of St. Patrick's Day which are beer themed: The "Guinness" and the "Black and Tan". Although it hasn't been reported if those are the official names of the shoes, they were being marketed as such in online shops and ads last weekend after their release. However, a search of ThePremierStore.com, an online retailer which carries Nike products, showed no results under those search terms.
The company has apologized for offending Irish communities with the sneaker name, which, according to one writer for the L.A. Times, "would be akin, in some circles, to naming a sneaker the Taliban or the Nazi." In a statement to the Telegraph, a representative for Nike had this to say:
"This month Nike is scheduled to release a version of the Nike SB Dunk Low that has been unofficially named by some using a phrase that can be viewed as inappropriate and insensitive. We apologise. No offence was intended."
While the term can be viewed as offensive by some, others wonder whether the uproar is justified, since the people at Nike who decide on names for their various lines don't usually include such political terms in their research. Their main focus is to make sure there are no copyright infringements. A report about the incident on IrishCentral.com has spawned quite a few comments which both support and vilify the company's decision. One commenter had this to say:
"I say wear them proudly! The only place a "Black and Tan" belongs is underfoot! Every time you kick a ball or pound them down by dancing them into the ground, hold that vision of divine retribution finally having its day! Purely symbolic, of course!"
Twitter has similar mixed reactions.
Re Nike's 'Black & Tan' trainers. You know what, they're great looking trainers and I want to buy a pair.
Nike releases special "black and tan" shoe in honor of St. Patrick's Day? ouch. They'll be popular with the UVF.
Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Outrage-as--Nike-issue-Black-and-Tan-sneaker-line-for-St-Patricks-Day-142180103.html#ixzz1pBrtZLwj
This isn't the first controversy that Nike has been involved in; 2006's ad campaign, which featured soccer player Wayne Rooney with a painted cross on his torso, drew fire from Christian groups.
You can watch a video about Nike's apology for the "Black and Tan" below.