NIKE on people with disabilities
by TERRY BOISOT
Nike, BACKPACKER Magazine, and Wieden + Kennedy Public Relations firm made a hurtful mistake when a print ad for Nike All Conditions Gear Air Dri-Goat trail running shoe appeared this month. The ad promotes the transformation of "the not-so-cool traditional sport of trail running into the totally cool, ultra-hardcore sport of extreme trail running . . . , " and people with disabilities were insulted in print to emphasize the concept of ‘extreme.'
The ad gives the reader the impression that by wearing the shoe the runner will avoid hitting a tree at high velocity - taunting "mortal injury" that could render the runner "a drooling, misshapen, non-extreme-trail-running husk of my former self, forced to roam the earth in a motorized wheelchair with my name embossed on one of those cute little license plates you get at carnivals or state fairs, fastened to the back?"
This was meant to be humorous, but people aren't laughing, and it causes some of the greatest harm to the dignity of people with disabilities.
In an attempt to undo some of the damage, Nike issued a public apology saying, "Clearly, disabilities of any form are no laughing matter and that paragraph should not have been included in the ad. We are immediately pulling this offensive ad from future publication."
BACKPACKER Magazine apologized for their role "in this unfortunate incident," and will be "reinvigorating our efforts in evaluating and accepting advertisements at BACKPACKER."
Wieden + Kennedy Public Relations said, "The ad has been pulled. It will never run again."
Unfortunately, as of last week, the magazine was still available, and the ad is still being read.
Despite Nike's failed attempt at humor, and their apology, people with disabilities and their families can, and do, laugh at themselves and at the circumstances that life brings them. Speaking for my own family, we welcome others to laugh with us, but not at us.
As a part of my own personal healing from this horrible rendition by Nike of my son's value, I'd like to share my vision for next month's ad for the trail running shoe. The ad would include my son and his most loyal friend.
Picture an 11-year-old boy, who started to think he was "forced to roam the earth" because he was misshapen, drooling, and his conventional wheelchair was not-so-cool - buckles-up in his new state-of-the-art all-terrain wheelchair that dares to go where no wheelchair has gone before.
The boy calls his German Shepherd and hooks the leash up to the chair. The boy and the German Shepherd are wearing shoes - not Nike.
In the original Nike print ad in BACKPACKER, trail runners are challenged with alarming a bear on the trail to make the experience more "extreme."
In my vision, the boy invites a Nike representative to a run on the trail with the intention of finding a bear to taunt. A bear they found.
As the three are moving down the path as fast as they can - the bear quickly coming up in the rear - the Nike rep starts to fall behind from exhaustion. The boy and the German Shepherd slow down long enough for the Nike rep to jump on.
The bear becomes a speck in the distance as the boy and the Nike rep roll into safety with the German Shepherd by their side.
Nike, a simple apology does not even begin to undo what you have done. The name, Nike, is a household word. People listen to you. So, how are you ever going to take it back?
Terry Boisot is the parent of a child with disabilities, serves on the board of directors of Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara and The Arc of the United States. She is concerned about all disability matters and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org