Two weeks ago, someone who goes by the handle Saiqa Noreen created a petition calling on Nike to pull the Air Max 270 shoe immediately, because she noticed a small section of the sole that looked similar to the Arabic word for "Allah." In her Petition description, she said that the inscription was especially offensive because it was on the bottom of the shoe, where it would "surely be trampled, kicked, and become soiled with mud or even filth."
Triggered Muslims see "allah" in Arabic on the sole of Nike Airmax, demand recall https://t.co/AXgRC4jGog pic.twitter.com/VTYatPNEO3
– BOC Intel (@ blackopscyber1) January 29, 2019
Over the last day, the petition seems to have seen a significant uptick, perhaps because of various news organizations caught on it, including Asian newspapers like Indonesia's the Jakarta Post and Singapore's Straits Times, which have heavy Muslim readerships. At the time of publication, the petition had nearly 22,000 signatories.
At first glance, it's hard for someone not familiar with Arabic to see the similarity. When Fast Company reached out to Nike, and a spokesperson provided the brand's official response:
We take care of this nature seriously. The AIR MAX logo was designed to be a stylized representation of Nike's AIR MAX trademark. It intended to reflect the AIR MAX brand only. Any perceived meaning or representation is unintentional.
The whole incident calls to mind a flick Nike made in 1997 when it created a logo that was designed to look like a flame but ended up looking very similar to the word Allah in Arabic. Nike apologized, donated $ 50,000 to build a playground in an Islamic elementary school in the United States, and withdrew 38,000 shoes worldwide. In that case, even a casual observer could see how apparently the commonality was.
In this case, the connection appears to be much more subtle. As of right now, Nike seems to be standing its ground. We'll let you know if anything changes.